ALLEN, Texas — To the outside world, the United Kingdom may seem like a haven for the royal family and posh British society. The truth, however, is that the U.K. is home to more than 14.3 million impoverished citizens, 4.6 million of whom are, unfortunately, children. These statistics translate to approximately 34% of U.K. children living in poor circumstances. This poverty then carries into youths’ daily lives — school, social settings and beyond. Families belonging to this poverty index often don’t have enough resources to adequately provide for their children, including proper food security. Enter Marcus Rashford, Manchester United footballer and English forward. In recent years, Marcus Rashford’s movement has ramped up efforts to combat food insecurity in the U.K.
Creating a Campaign
Rashford, too, suffered from food insecurity as a child and is looking to drastically change the situation. For this reason, he has been a strong advocate for free school meals for children. Despite his efforts being downplayed, for the most part, Rashford has used his own voice to spread the word. He has turned his Twitter into a social media space with information on food banks and directories for food services. Through this platform, Rashford has reached more than three million followers. Marcus Rashford’s movement has only gained more notoriety after he received a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire award from the Queen of England.
Petitioning the Government
Rashford has furthered his cause by writing a petition to the U.K. government. The petition called for the government to provide free school-based meals to children even while on vacation. His petition has garnered more than one million signatures since he first wrote it, making it one of only five petitions submitted to Parliament to ever receive such a high number of votes. And, it isn’t just individuals from whom Rashford is amassing support. More than 2,000 restaurants and other food-based small businesses are standing behind his cause. They form a greater group known as All of Us Together, a platform that relies on technology and communication volunteers.
A Catalyst for Positive Results
Marcus Rashford’s movement is already showing significant results in the fight against food insecurity in the U.K. In response to his petition, the government granted more than one million students the ability to claim school vouchers during a school break. Lawmakers in the U.K. have agreed to spend around $220 million as a part of this plan. Rashford was also able to directly contact the U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson after the deal was passed. The result came after the two dominant parties in the U.K. legislature were unable to reach a consensus on the issue of food insecurity months earlier. Rashford was then successfully able to rally his base into forcing a revote on the matter.
As a unique approach to combating the youth food crisis in his home country, Marcus Rashford’s movement serves as an example to prominent influencers around the world. The soccer star has used his influence to raise the standard of living and socioeconomic equity for children in the U.K. Rashford’s work is ultimately representative of how individuals can enact meaningful social change by making their voices heard.
– Mihir Gokhale