Football and Food

Marcus Rashford – making an impact on and off the football field

Football champion, Marcus Rashford, who relied on free lunches when he was at school, has become a role model for young people. The AQA exam board’s syllabus this year includes studies on Rashford’s role as an influencer. Pupils will focus on his use of social media to speak out on issues such as free school meals and racism in sport.

His football career so far has been defined by making a big impact, but the Manchester United and England player is having an even greater impact off the field. In March 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Rashford teamed up with the food distribution charity FareShare to make sure vulnerable children across the UK had enough to eat. The campaign raised more than £20 million. He went on to successfully lobby the government to change their policy around the free food voucher programme, so that 1.3 million vulnerable children could continue to have access to food supplies while schools were closed during the pandemic.

In an open letter to MPs, he wrote: ‘My mum worked full time, earning the 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.’ His intervention put pressure on ministers to extend food support through school holidays. In response to his End Child Food Poverty campaign, the British government committed £400 million to support vulnerable children across the UK.

In his book, You Are A Champion (Macmillan Children’s Books), Rashford wrote about the campaign, ‘My initial plan was to help those in breakfast clubs and community centres get the meals they needed over the holidays, but as I started to learn more about the situation, I became more and more passionate about helping out. I wanted to make a difference… When you get loads of people together who are all working towards a single cause, the most phenomenal things are possible. We all became champions for this cause, which was helping to get food to and support the children who needed it the most.’

Rashford has received well-deserved praise for his campaigning and, in October 2020, he was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to vulnerable children during the pandemic. Former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson also praised Rashford’s work: ‘Apart from his football life, what he has achieved in the last few months is quite astonishing; how he has helped the people in need is a truly amazing achievement.’

Challenges growing up

It could be said that Rashford’s achievements are even more impressive in the context of the challenges he had as a child. However, his upbringing shaped him into the role model he has become.

The youngest of five siblings, Rashford has two older brothers, Dwaine and Dane, and two sisters Chantelle and Claire. He grew up in Wythenshawe, a suburb of south Manchester, raised by his mother, Melanie. ‘My mum has been through some of the worst things you can imagine, but she has never let anything that’s happened take away her smile. When I was growing up, she worked three jobs and ran a house with my siblings and myself running about the place, and she still found time to give us so much love and good advice. She always tries to see the bright side of things, which is something I’m so lucky to have learned from her.’

He has said that it was his family, and particularly his mother, that influenced him. ‘My values come from my household; the rules and the respect we had for each other. For my whole upbringing, she was the leader in that. Seeing someone living through difficult situations every single day, but waking up the next morning and giving it her best go again…nothing can really top that,’ he said.

He has also spoken openly about his family’s Christian faith; ‘If you could see our lives 15-20 years ago to where we are now, it’s impossible not to have faith in God and all he does for us.’

Humble and focused

Despite the praise and awards he has received for his footballing talents and incredible charitable campaigns, he has remained humble and is focused on his passion for helping those in need. In his own words, ‘I’m just a young person who was in a difficult situation and managed to find a way out, and now I’m in a position where I can help others.’ He has also said that his ambition is to go even further with his fight against child poverty: ‘That’s my dream; to do that over and over again in loads of different ways, to help as many people as I can.’

Rashford is still not even 25 years old, so he should have a long time left in his playing career. We will have to wait and see what he can achieve on the pitch with England and Manchester United. But when his career is over, he will be remembered for so much more than just his goals and trophies. He will be remembered for standing up for and helping people in need in a time of crisis.

In his book, dedicated to his Mum ‘for helping me to believe that dreams can come true,’ he says: ‘No matter who you are and no matter where you come from, every single person in the world has the potential to be a champion.’

Career Highlight 

Rashford, who turned 24 in October, is an English professional footballer who plays as a forward for Premier League club Manchester United and the England national team. He was a Manchester United supporter growing up and joined the academy system as a youth player at the age of seven. He was an exciting talent from an early age, and when he was 11, he became the youngest ever player to be selected for the Manchester United Schoolboy Scholars scheme. At the age of just 16, Rashford trained with the senior team for the first time.


After rising through the youth teams, Rashford had the opportunity to play for the first team and quickly made an impact. In February 2016, Rashford scored two goals on his first-team debut against Danish club, Midtjylland, in the UEFA Europa League. His goals made him United’s youngest ever goal scorer in European competition, at the age of 18, beating a record previously held by celebrity player George Best. Rashford then made his Premier League debut against Arsenal three days later. Again, he scored twice and also provided the assist for the other goal in a 3–2 victory, making him the third youngest goal scorer for Manchester United in the Premier League. He also scored in his first Manchester derby against rivals Manchester City, as well as on his UEFA Champions League and EFL Cup debuts.


It was an incredible start to his footballing career, and he drew praise from many players and pundits. In 2016, three-time winner of FIFA World Player of the Year, Ronaldo Nazario said ‘He’s a very good young player. I see some of myself in him for sure… he has an amazing future.’ The legendary Brazilian striker’s prediction has certainly proved to be correct, Rashford’s career has gone from strength to strength since he burst on to the scene in 2016. With Manchester United, Rashford has so far won the FA Cup, EFL Cup, FA Community Shield and Europa League. As well as becoming a star player for Manchester United, Rashford has also become a key player for England. He continued his habit of starting well and scored on his England debut in May 2016, becoming the youngest English player to score in his first senior international match. He played at the UEFA Euro 2016 as the tournament’s youngest player, and also played for England at both the 2018 FIFA World Cup and the UEFA Euro 2020, which was held in the summer of 2021.

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