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Goal 02: Zero Hunger


23-year-old football superstar Marcus Rashford continues his fight against child food poverty

By leanne walstow
8 october 2021

After making headlines during lockdown by bringing about a government U-turn on free school meals during the summer holidays, Marcus Rashford is using his football stardom to make a difference by continuing his fight to make sure no child goes to bed hungry - from partnering with food giants to working with chefs to create food voucher recipes. He has also just become the youngest ever recipient of an honorary doctorate from Manchester University, in recognition of his work on alleviating child poverty in the UK.

Who is Marcus Rashford?

A football star since his talent was scouted at an early age, Marcus Rashford (still only 23 years old), currently plays for Manchester United and has also played in the England team at an international level. Rashford has previously spoken out about how his family relied on free school meals, food banks and soup kitchens when he was growing up, saying that if someone had spoken up about these issues then, ‘maybe the situation would've been different’.

A lockdown hero

When the coronavirus pandemic took hold of the UK Marcus Rashford stepped up big time, raising millions in donations by partnering with food charity FareShare - an organisation dedicated to relieving food poverty and reducing food waste in the UK. The footballer also launched a poetry competition for deaf children, has been learning sign language and has utilised his huge social media presence to speak out on issues of racial inequality since the killing of George Floyd. 

On Friday 12th June, Rashford posted to his millions of followers, asking them to share their own experiences of the government’s food voucher scheme, ‘to understand better the exact scale of the problem’. After gathering responses, Rashford then posted an open letter to MPs on his social channels on Monday 15th, encouraging people to share and send to their local law-makers. The results were incredible. The post went viral, being taken up by the likes of London Mayor Sadiq Khan, fans from rival teams and celebrities alike.

Free school meals for children in need

Rashford’s powerful letter reflected on his own experiences growing up and highlighted that during the pandemic, the Food Foundation estimates that roughly 200,000 children have been forced to skip meals, with school closures putting more pressure on families to provide all three meals each day. ‘From 2018-2019, nine in 30 children in any given classroom were living in poverty in the UK,’ his letter said. ‘45% of children in Black and minority ethnic groups are now in poverty.’ Rashford called for the government to prevent these vulnerable children going hungry by reversing the decision to cancel the food voucher scheme over the Summer holiday period.

Victory: the government U-turn

The day after Marcus shared his open letter on social media, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that the government would be continuing the food voucher scheme - thanks to the campaigning of the football star. Families were given £15 each week per child to spend in supermarkets - for the 1.3 million children who rely on free school meals, this was a lifeline.


As with many of the issues highlighted during lockdown, food poverty is not something that has gone away as things have returned to normal and Marcus Rashford is continuing his campaign to make sure no child goes hungry. Following his work with FareShare, Rashford announced his partnership with the Child Food Poverty Task Force and major players in the food industry with the aim of shedding ‘light on the issue of child food poverty in the UK’, by spending six weeks highlighting stories from across the country. In an open letter to MPs, Rashford set out three major policy changes that he and his task force would like to see implemented:

  • Expansion of free school meals to every child from a household on universal credit or equivalent, reaching an additional 1.5 million children aged between seven and 16.
  • Expansion of holiday provision (food and activities) to support all children on free school meals, reaching an additional 1.1 million children.
  • Increasing the value of the Healthy Start vouchers to £4.25 per week (from £3.10) and expanding into all those on universal credit or equivalent, reaching an additional 290,000 pregnant women and children under the age of four.

Cooking up a storm

As part of his work on the #EndChildFoodPoverty campaign, Marcus Rashford has teamed up with chef Tom Kerridge to create 52 recipes that can be whipped up using ingredients available to purchase with food vouchers. 'Full Time: Get Cooking with Marcus & Tom’ aims to help people get the most out of their vouchers by following easy weekly recipes for tasty, nutritious meals. Tom said of the campaign: ‘Marcus and I are proud to be working together to spread the message of how easy cooking can be. You don’t need lots of equipment – you can still make great tasting, fun and filling food'.

introducing doctor marcus rashford

Marcus Rashford has recently become the youngest ever recipient of an honorary doctorate from Manchester University, in recognition of his work on alleviating child poverty in the UK. He used his acceptance speech to highlight the 'bittersweet' nature of receiving the accolade the day after the universal credit uplift - a vital lifeline for many families - was retracted. He said: 'Yesterday, millions of families across the UK lost a lifeline and a means of staying afloat. A move that could see child poverty rise to one in three children. For that reason, today is bittersweet.'

What’s next?

Football players have huge international followings and when they utilise their platforms, amazing results often follow - David Beckham was our Goal 3: Good Health and Wellbeing ambassador last year. We can’t wait to see what Marcus does next - one thing is for sure, he’s definitely got our vote for Sports Personality of the Year!

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