Marcus Rashford and restaurants are providing some much-needed good news in the United Kingdom, and inspiring positive action to help those in need.
The Manchester United and England striker can now be considered a national treasure after managing to unite a much-divided Britain with his call to have children’s school lunches funded throughout the half-term break.
Until now, the soccer player’s calls had fallen on the deaf ears of government, as they voted to withhold funds to feed hungry children. A motion to provide 1.4 million disadvantaged children in England with £15 a week in food vouchers during holidays until Easter 2021 was defeated in the Commons last week. According to the government’s own figures, over 4.2 million people live in poverty in the UK.
However, as the news broke that children would go hungry, Rashford’s Twitter feed began to fill with offers of free lunches paid for by hard-hit restaurants, themselves struggling under the tiered system of coronavirus restrictions.
Rashford started his campaign earlier this year, using his celebrity status and his 3.6 million Twitter following to fight child poverty and ensure that no child in England has to go to school on an empty stomach. He managed to persuade the UK government to extend a scheme to provide free school meals to vulnerable children during the coronavirus crisis. The work saw him awarded the honour of Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE).
More recently, Rashford set up his own task force to investigate the state of child poverty in Britain, and with the findings he wrote to the government detailing his own experiences of poverty and hunger as a child.
“I remember the sound of my mum crying herself to sleep to this day, having worked a 14-hour shift, unsure how she was going to make ends meet,” he wrote.
With the motion defeated and the player’s campaign seemingly falling on deaf ears, the story took a turn for better as struggling restaurants cafes and pubs started tweeting their messages of support, saying they would be willing to fill the gap created by the government.
As the steady stream of restaurant tweets continued to flow on Rashford’s feed, other companies such as caterers and cab companies joined the fray. Meanwhile, hundreds of customers began to voice their willingness to donate, and crowdfunding campaigns began to appear, with one tweeter noting that “Marcus Rashford appears to have set up an alternative government.”
Rashford scored for Manchester United in their Champions League game against Paris Saint-Germain this week, and it appears he is in incredible form for finding a way to win. When Rashford’s Premier League game against Newcastle United aired recently, it was available to watch only at an extra pay-per-view cost of £15 to fans, who were already subscribing to the channel.
The 'Charity Not PPV' campaign asked fans to donate to a Newcastle food bank rather than pay to watch, in the end raising an incredible £20,000.
Supporters from a number of other English football clubs involved in pay-per-view matches - including Aston Villa, Burnley and Leeds United - have also been raising thousands of pounds for local food banks. Again, food becomes the central issue in a campaign that is about more than just politics, but, as Rashford himself says, humanity.