Shy, Humble And Compassionate – The Real Marcus Rashford

'The way he looked at his mum - it was pure love and adoration. It was quite emotional.'

Marcus Rashford background and family

by Anna Silverman |
Published on

Marcus Rashford, the Manchester United and England footballer, has an ambition. He wants to make sure no child in the UK goes hungry. If you’ve scrolled through his Twitter feed recently, you’ll see he has already done a pretty incredible job. After calling for the Government to provide free school meals during holidays for families who need them, over a thousand businesses, councils and charities stepped in and offered their support over half term. Marcus has retweeted hundreds of them. After the Government resisted the footballer's pleas for free school meals to be extended over the October half-term holidays, Boris Johnson announced this weekend that the Government would now be offering free-school meals over the Christmas break - the second U-turn the Government has done on the issue of child poverty, prompted by Marcus's consummate campaigning.

After the policy change was announced, he said he was "so proud" of those who had united behind his campaign and that he was "overwhelmed by the outpouring of empathy and understanding".

READ MORE: After 322 MPs Voted To Let More Than One Million Children Go Hungry, Everyone Should Read Marcus Rashford’s Emotional Words On Food Poverty

When the first lockdown came in March, he knew the crisis and school closures could exacerbate food poverty. So, he persuaded the Government to provide a scheme for free school meals during the summer holidays, contacted FareShare, a food redistribution charity, became their ambassador and helped them to raise millions in funds. Before he got involved, Christie Garratt, who works at FareShare and has met Marcus a number of times, says the public weren’t really aware of the charity. ‘The work he’s done to raise awareness of the issue and break down stigma has been transformational,’ she says.

The first time Marcus visited was in July, at their London warehouse, when he brought along big brother, Dwayne. ‘They seemed very close. Marcus is actually quite shy. He’s more of a listener than a talker. His brother was the opposite,’ Christie says.

In August, Marcus visited one of the charities FareShare supplies in London on his own, and last month he brought his mum, Mel, to their Greater Manchester warehouse. To recognise the impact of his support, the new warehouse has been named Mel Maynard House, after his mum. ‘He was really proud to be able to show his mum around,’ says Christie. ‘They’re so humble. There’s no arrogance to him at all.

READ MORE: Marcus Rashford's Powerful Plea To MPs To Stop Millions Of Children From Going Hungry This Summer

I was told Mel had to leave quickly because she felt like she was going to cry. The way he looked at her when we were getting a couple of photos in the new space, it was pure love and adoration. It was quite emotional.’ Marcus has spoken of how he and his family relied on the services of charities like FareShare when he was younger. In an open letter to MPs in June, urging them to reconsider their decision to cancel a food voucher scheme over the summer holidays, he wrote, ‘My mum worked full-time, earning minimum wage to make sure we always had a good evening meal on the table. But it was not enough. The system was not built for families like mine to succeed, regardless of how hard my mum worked.’ He said they relied on breakfast clubs, free school meals, neighbours and coaches. ‘Food banks and soup kitchens were not alien to us,’ he wrote.

Christie says he chats openly about his background and the hard work of his mum. ‘He wants to make sure there’s support in place for other families because he knows their story isn’t the exception. It’s more common than a lot of us realise.’ She’s adamant he’s doing this to help them make a difference. ‘When we thank him, it’s always, “Thank YOU guys for doing the real work.” He’s really grateful. He’s such a lovely guy and when you meet him you remember he’s so young. He’s only 23. To care so much and be so dedicated at that age is really something.’

Since becoming FareShare ambassador in March, Marcus has launched a Child Food Poverty Taskforce, influenced Government policy, driven the issue of food poverty to the top of the news agenda and made three ‘significant’ donations to FareShare. Christie won’t be drawn on how much, but says the donations of Marcus and his fans will mean they can distribute an additional six million meals. ‘Yeah. It’s huge,’ she says. He’s also helped FareShare to double their output, from distributing enough food for one million meals a week to two million.

So what’s behind his mission? ‘I think he just really, really cares,’ Christie adds. ‘What makes what he’s doing so powerful is because he’s actually lived it. He’s never forgotten what it was like to struggle.’

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