Premier League football star Marcus Rashford has revealed how he is haunted by the memory of his mother crying herself to sleep as she struggled to provide for her family.
The Manchester United striker says his mother Melanie would return home after a 14-hour shift, only to be tormented by her struggle to ‘make ends meet’.
The 22-year-old England international made the revelation in an open letter to MPs as he launched a new drive against child poverty yesterday.
In the emotional letter, the £200,000-a-week forward also revealed how he had met a mother who was breaking bread with hot water and adding sugar, ‘hoping that the porridge consistency might better sustain the hunger of her one-year-old child’.
In the letter, he said: ‘I remember the sound of my mum crying herself to sleep, having worked a 14-hour shift, unsure how she was going to make ends meet.
‘That was my reality and thankfully I had the talent to kick a ball around to pull us all out of that situation.
The Manchester United striker says his mother Melanie (pictured with her son) would return home after a 14-hour shift, only to be tormented by her struggle to ‘make ends meet’
‘Many can’t find that way out and aren’t being offered a helping hand to do so.
‘Those most at risk aren’t in a position and don’t have the platform to scream help from the rooftops but, for those ready to speak, my intention is to offer them the platform to do so and, for those who aren’t, I will continue to be their voice and act on their behalf.
Marcus Rashford’s three-point plan to help tackle child poverty
1) Expansion of the Free School Meals system
The striker wants to expand free school meals for every child in households on Universal Credit.
This would expand the system to an extra 1.5million.
Currently, around 1.3million of the country’s poorest children claim free school meals – which, according to a report for the Institute of Fiscal Studies in 2017, cost £2.30 per meal – a total cost of £3million a day.
Expanding the system would bring the total to more than £6million a day. With around 195 school days a year, if every eligible child claimed their meal every day, the estimated yearly cost would be around £583,000,000.
2) Expand holiday help to Free School Meal recipients
The Manchester United star also wants to expand holiday help children on the Free School Meals scheme.
He is calling for more food and activities – which would benefit more than one million children.
3) Increase the spend on Healthy Start Vouchers
The England international is also calling on the government to increase the value of Health Start Vouchers, which can be spent on milk, plain fresh and frozen fruit and vegetables, and infant formula milk.
He wants to see the vouchers increase from £3.10-a-week to £4.25, while expanding the scheme to anyone on Universal Credit.
Around 400,000 households are eligible for the vouchers, though charities believe only around two-thirds of people do.
If everyone did however, the spend would be around £60million-a-year. If everyone claimed the increased voucher cost, the spend would be around £90million-a-year
‘Mothers and fathers are raising respectful, eloquent young men and women, who, in reality, are part of a system that will not allow them the opportunity to win and succeed.
‘Add school closures, redundancies and furloughs into the equation and we have an issue that could negatively impact generations to come.
‘It all starts with stability around access to food.’
The football star, who earlier this year forced a government U-turn to ensure free school meals were provided throughout summer due to Covid-19, and who this week joined a child poverty task force backed by major supermarkets, is now pushing ministers to make a list of reforms to tackle child poverty.
They include expanding the Free School Meals scheme, creating more school holiday activities for youngsters from the poorest backgrounds and raising the amount given to parents to help cover the cost of healthier foods.
Under his three-point plan, outlined in his letter to MPs, the striker wants to expand free school meals for every child in households on Universal Credit.
He also wants to expand holiday help for children on the Free School Meals scheme, with more food and activities – which would benefit more than one million children.
Mr Rashford is also calling on the government to increase the value of Healthy Start Vouchers, which can be spent on milk, plain fresh and frozen fruit and vegetables, and infant formula milk, from £3.10-a-week to £4.25, while expanding the scheme to anyone on Universal Credit.
The striker, who now lives in a £1.5million Cheshire mansion, grew up in a £150,000 terraced council house on the tough Northern Moor estate in Wythenshawe.
He cited his own experience of growing up on a council estate during his successful campaign to get the government to extend its Free School Meals throughout this summer.
In his letter today he said he had met others facing extreme hardship since taking on the government over the Free School Meals plan.
He said: ‘I spoke to a mother recently who, along with her two young sons, is currently living off three slices of bread a day — soaking them in hot water and adding sugar, hoping that the porridge consistency might better sustain the hunger of her one-year-old child.
‘I spoke to a family who were sleeping on one mattress on the floor — the reason being, like any good parent would, they had had no choice but to sell every valuable they owned to put food on the table their children.
Along with his school meals campaign, Mr Rashford has already helped to raise £20million to fund 3.9million meals for vulnerable children in lockdown
‘All of this, a result circumstances that are entirely out of their control, such as redundancy and illness. This is the true reality of England in 2020.’
Along with his school meals campaign, Mr Rashford has already helped to raise £20million to fund 3.9million meals for vulnerable children in lockdown.
Boris Johnson has already vowed to look closely at his latest recommendations, which come days after he joined a food poverty task force involving Tesco, Asda, Aldi, Co-op, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, Iceland, Lidl, Deliveroo, FareShare and Kellogg’s.
Yesterday, at a briefing, the Prime Minister’s spokesperson said: ‘We are taking substantial action to make sure that no child goes hungry during the pandemic and continue to support those in need.
‘Our national voucher scheme supported children eligible for free school meals while they were at home and the Covid summer fund ensured families continued to receive support.
‘We will carefully consider the task force recommendations as we approach the next spending review.’
The council house kid who forced the PM to back down
Marcus, pictured as a little boy, and his four siblings were all on free school meals while growing up
Marcus Rashford was hailed as the hero of lockdown after his successful free school meals campaign became yet another unlikely victory for a young footballer who has already defied the odds to become one of England’s top sportsmen.
The 22-year-old star says leaving home aged 11 to join Manchester United’s academy when his single mother Melanie struggled to feed the family has driven his campaign to ensure other children in the UK do not go hungry.
Earlier this year, the England striker forced Boris Johnson into an extraordinary U-turn less than 24 hours after the Prime Minister refused to budge on finding £110million to give free school meals to £1.3million vulnerable children for six weeks over the summer.
Rashford hailed the news at the time, tweeting: ‘I don’t even know what to say. Just look at what we can do when we come together, THIS is England in 2020.’
It caps an incredible lockdown for Marcus, who has used the past three months to recover from a double back fracture while also helping to supply three million meals for children out of school, raising around £20million along with charity FareShare. He is now joint-favourite to become BBC Sports Personality of the Year.
Marcus, who earns £200,000-a-week at Man United and lives in a £1.8million mansion with a fleet of luxury cars, has not said how exactly much he has donated himself but admitted he started the fund with ‘£50,000 to £60,000’ of his own money with Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda and wealthy individuals handing over millions more.
He grew up in a £150,000 terraced council house on the tough Northern Moor estate in Wythenshawe, where the hit series Shameless was filmed in an area of Manchester that has suffered badly from high crime rates, poverty and drug problems.