By Manuel Sánchez Gómez
London, Jun 15 (efe-epa).- With the coronavirus lockdown still weighing on the United Kingdom’s economy amid mass temporary lay-offs, salary cuts and business petitions for government bailouts, Manchester United and England star Marcus Rashford has quietly set an example by helping some of the country’s less advantaged people.
As English football ground to an unscheduled halt, the 22-year-old from south Manchester diverted his attention and teamed up with the charity FareShare to raise around 20 million pounds ($25m) to pay for meals for some three million vulnerable people.
On Monday, Rashford published a personal open letter to MPs calling on the government to reverse its decision not to extend the free school meal voucher system throughout the summer months.
“On a week that would have opened Euro 2020, I wanted to reflect back to 27 May 2016, when I stood in the middle of the Stadium of Light in Sunderland having just broken the record for the youngest player to score in his first senior international match,” he said in the emotive letter.
“I watched the crowds waving their flags and fist-pumping the Three Lions on their shirts and I was overwhelmed with pride not only for myself but for all of those who had helped me reach this moment and achieve my dream of playing for the England national team.”
“Understand: without the kindness and generosity of the community I had around me, there wouldn’t be the Marcus Rashford you see today: a 22-year old black man lucky enough to make a career playing a game I love.
“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.”
In the letter, Rashford explained that as a youngster he and his siblings relied on free school meals, breakfast clubs, food banks and the charity of neighbors.
“This summer should have been filled with pride once more, parents and children waving their flags, but in reality, Wembley stadium could be filled more than twice with children who have had to skip meals during lockdown due to their families not being able to access food (200,000 children according to Food Foundation estimates).”
“This is not about politics; this is about humanity,” he said. “Political affiliations aside, can we not all agree that no child should be going to bed hungry?
During the lockdown period, Rashford has emerged as a mature and vocal campaigner against food poverty in the UK, and his message has received wide support from politicians, football players and pundits alike.
Awaiting an official response from Conservative Party prime minister Boris Johnson, the leader of the opposition Labour Party Keir Starmer said: “This is such an important and moving letter. Marcus Rashford is right, we cannot let 1.3 million children go hungry this summer. Thank you, Marcus, for all the work you are doing to support children during the coronavirus crisis.”