FOOTBALL star Marcus Rashford has been praised for his work to tackle childhood hunger in the UK by forming a partnership with a leading charity.
The Manchester United and England striker, 23, joined forces with FareShare which distributes food across the country including in areas with large Asian communities such as in Greater Manchester and the Midlands.
FareShare has also teamed up with charities Islamic Relief and Muslim Hands to give out halal and Qurbani meat to vulnerable people and families across the UK.
The organisation takes more than 24,000 tonnes per year of surplus food that would otherwise go to waste from farms, factories and retailers and distributes it to local groups and charities, including school breakfast clubs, homeless shelters and women’s refuges.
The service will provide a lifeline for thousands of people during the Christmas holidays this week.
Among the families who have benefited from the initiative is Gumit Kaur, a single mother of five girls from Birmingham. The tutor, 41, said: “I’ve skipped meals many times before to feed the kids.
“You’ve got to pay the bills, the rent, the gas, the electric – what have you got left after that?”
“If this wasn’t here and they didn’t have the food what would we do? This has been more than a lifeline.”
FareShare’s CEO Lindsay Boswell told Eastern Eye: “Across the UK, including in many communities with a large south Asian population in the Midlands and Greater Manchester, FareShare has more than doubled the amount of food distributed each week.
“FareShare also partners with other organisations, including Islamic Relief and Muslim Hands, and charities to distribute Halal and Qurbani meat to vulnerable people and families across the UK.”
Rashford, who experienced poverty while growing up in Manchester, has helped raise money to enable FareShare to provide enough food for eight million meals for children and families who might not otherwise have gone hungry during the pandemic.
His #MakeTheUTurn campaign led to prime minister Boris Johnson extending a voucher scheme, a replacement for free school m e a l s through the lockdown, ensuring that 1.3 million vulnerable children could continue to access food.
The forward also launched the Child Food Poverty Taskforce, a group of more than 15 groups that FareShare is a founding member of to support the National Food Strategy.
James Persad, head of marketing and communications at FareShare UK, said the footballer “has had the ‘Captain Tom Moore effect’ but for FareShare instead of the NHS.”
“He has brought this into the national consciousness and shone a light on childhood hunger, inspiring a whole new generation of young people interested in supporting FareShare.”
Boswell said the partnership with Rashford kicked off at the start of the coronavirus outbreak in March. She added: “FareShare was preparing for an unprecedented challenge and a huge growth in demand for food, and the charity’s expectations soon became a reality with the number of new projects applying to receive food more than trebling in just one month.
“At the same time, FareShare’s existing network of charities and community groups were requesting increasingly higher volumes of food as they experienced more and more people coming to them for support.
“Marcus Rashford soon heard FareShare’s call for support. FareShare’s work fighting hunger in the nation’s most vulnerable communities, especially our ActiveAte campaign helping vulnerable children over the summer holidays who would usually access a free school meal, is aligned to Marcus’ own personal mission. “Marcus and FareShare have come together to help tackle childhood hunger in the UK, and we are very grateful for his support.”
A number of famous public figures have pledged their support to FareShare to show childhood poverty the red card include legendary Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, singer Louis Tomlinson and philanthropist Sir Michael Moritz.
On Tomlinson’s backing, Persad said it was “never more needed going into this winter for the vulnerable communities we support.”
FareShare supplies almost 11,000 frontline charities and community groups providing around two million meals of FareShare food
Boswell said: “We continue to be awestruck by the wave of support and kindness Marcus Rashford has inspired – not least from the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson and Sir Michael Moritz, but also the general public, and children and families.
“Marcus’ campaigning is powerful and authentic simply because he has very personal experiences of growing up in a family which struggled. As he has said, their family were no stranger to food banks and soup kitchens.
“We are so grateful to Marcus for using his platform to raise awareness of this vitally important issue; his support of FareShare has been transformational.”
She added: “Before Covid, many of the projects we supplied – such as community centres, lunch clubs and school breakfast clubs – would use FareShare food to create communal meals to connect communities.
“Now, 80 per cent of the charities we supply have moved to a food parcel model and will continue to work tirelessly over the Christmas period to get these vital food supplies to the children and families who need it most.”