Giggs and Rashford united in using Sport for Good

It is very rare for a sportsman in the peak of his years to dedicate so much of his time to helping others.
But that is exactly what Manchester United and England striker Marcus Rashford has done since the UK lockdown to help address issues of child hunger and poverty in the UK.
It’s no wonder that Rashford was awarded an MBE for his services to vulnerable children in the UK during the coronavirus pandemic, in the Queen's Birthday Honours list. And it’s a testament to his ability to focus on sport as well as child welfare that he then scored against Belgium when England beat Belgium in the Nations League match last weekend.
Rashford, who has been at the Red Devils most of his life, is the latest in a long line of United stars who have taken the time to help others.  Both Bobby Charlton and Ryan Giggs have given their time and influence to support the work of Laureus, both becoming Members of the Laureus World Sports Academy at the end of their long, illustrious careers.
In their role as Academy Members, both Charlton and Giggs have experienced the work Laureus Sport for Good supports around the world. A charity that uses the power of sport to change the lives of young people, Laureus Sport for Good supports over 200 programmes globally, each programme addressing specific local issues aligned to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
Bobby Charlton has become a passionate advocate for Laureus programmes around the world, most notably in Cambodia where became invested in improving mine clearance measures having seen first-hand the horror of children mutilated by leftover munitions when he visited the Laureus-supported Spirit of Soccer programme.

Laureus Academy member Ryan Giggs visiting Street League UK

Similarly, Ryan Giggs has seen the role his sport can play in improving young lives in South Africa, working with Laureus to provide education to help improve opportunities for young people. In the UK, Street League helps young adults get into work or back into education or employment through an eight-week course combining football with life skills.
Giggs is under no illusion about the power of sport to help communities and revealed the values he was taught by senior United figures. 
He said: “As the most geographically popularised sport across the world, football has the most incredible potential and ability to unite. I know many clubs are doing a lot of work for the NHS, health workers and also individuals. We’ve been brought up at Manchester United where representing the club means something much more than just what we do on the pitch.
“I learnt from Sir Bobby Charlton, who was an incredible role model and when I started one of my heroes was my first captain, Bryan Robson, who was in the midst of raising a million pounds for a scanner for a local children's hospital.
“I did quite a lot of work for Robbo, so from an early age, I realised the responsibility that footballers and sports stars have to not only play but to help others.”
Rashford has certainly done that, having been candid about the struggles his mother had feeding the family as he grew up, relying on free school meals, breakfast and after-school clubs, food banks and vouchers to ensure he could eat.
Memories of those challenges and responses from parents to email him about their struggles to feed their children motivated him to juggle his career at one of the biggest clubs in the world to use his platform to help others.
"If this would have happened 10 or 15 years ago, it definitely would have affected myself as a kid in the position I was in," Rashford told Man Utd's official website.
"It's just something I thought, if there's a way to try and help people and kids especially, let's just try and do it."
His first initiative addressed the issue of children missing out on a free school meal during the UK’s coronavirus lockdown, which saw home schooling with all schools closed.
More than a million children would be missing out on the meals, prompting Rashford to ask the UK government to reconsider the policy even while schools remained shut.
He emailed an open letter to MPs to #maketheUturn on their decision: “Ten years ago I would have been one of those children. This is not about politics; this is about humanity. Please #maketheuturn.”
The government initially rejected the request with a Department for Education spokesman stating: “Free schools meals are ordinarily term time only, and the national voucher scheme will not run during the summer holidays.”
Such is Rashford’s profile and the influence his social media posts had on others that within 24 hours the government had reconsidered their decision and introduced a ‘COVID summer school fund’ which would provide £15 a week to each young person.
“I don’t even know what to say. Just look at what we can do when we come together, THIS is England in 2020,” commented Rashford in response.
Marcus Rashford's Tweet in response to the governments backingof his #maketheUturn request on 16 June 2020
Earlier this year, a YouGov poll commissioned by the Food Foundation suggested that 2.4 million (17%) children are living in food-insecure households.
Poor nutrition is acknowledged to be a factor in children's performance at school and pupils whose parents receive certain benefits are eligible for Free School Meals.
In England, around 1.3 million children claimed Free School Meals in 2019 - about 15% of state-educated pupils.
Globally, around 690 million people worldwide go to bed hungry each night with an estimated 14 million children under the age of five worldwide suffering from severe acute malnutrition.
Searching Google, Rashford discovered FareShare, the organisation that collects surplus food that would otherwise go to waste and redistributes it to good causes that transforms it into meals for the disadvantaged.
Within days, the striker had established a new partnership designed to publicise the plight of the 1.3 million children registered for free school meals in England and encourage donations from the public and companies.
Likewise, Rashford is not just a figurehead for his campaigns and visited the Evelyn Community Store to hear about its model for tackling food poverty.
Local residents pay £3.50 a week to become a member of the Evelyn Community Store and are provided with fresh fruit and vegetables, meat, and frozen and tinned foods twice a week.
The food includes branded items from M&S and treats for children and works in conjunction with FareShare to source its food.
Having made a donation of his own, Rashford’s initiative has seen more than £20 million raised through food and financial donations, helping three million vulnerable people get meals each week.
High profile retailers and brands have joined the scheme, including supermarkets Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s, and the Co-op; fast food brands such as Coca-Cola, Pizza Express and Pret A Manger; and conglomerates such as Nestle.
“As a sportsman, I have always found such power in unity and teamwork, and I’m thrilled that such influential voices have put any allegiance aside to join me on my mission to move the conversation of child food poverty forward. 4.2 million children were living in poverty in the UK prior to Covid-19 and this is expected to have risen; the Task Force stand together to offer these vulnerable children the platform they need to have their voices heard,” said Rashford.
“The time for action is now. I’m proud and I’m humbled to see such a reaction and commitment from the food industry, and I am confident that together we can help change the lives of those most vulnerable for the better.”
In early September, Rashford went even further, creating the Child Poverty Task Force with the food industry to shed light on the issue of child food poverty in the UK.
Alongside FareShare, Aldi, Asda, Co-op, Deliveroo, the Food Foundation, Iceland, Kellogg’s, Lidl, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose have come together to share stories of child poverty and provide recommendations to address the issue.
Those recommendations include the expansion of free school meals to every child from a household on state benefits; extending the holiday provisions to support all children on free school meals, reaching an additional 1.1 million children; and increasing the value of Healthy Start vouchers to reach an additional 290,000 pregnant women and children under the age of four.
Rashford has stressed the importance of tackling the stigma around child food poverty and changing attitudes about asking for help.
He said: “The drive of myself and the Child Food Poverty taskforce to see these three government policies implemented without delay is stronger than ever.
“I have no interest in party politics. Letting millions of children in the UK go hungry at night is only an issue of humanity. We need to do better.
“I feel like at times people think they are being looked down on if they ask for help, and I think in this generation... that is something that should change. You should feel free if you want to ask for help for anything. Hold your head up high and if you need help go and get help."
No wonder Rashford has become an icon and an example of what could be done with positive messaging, empathy and commitment. 
His success underlines the influence and benefits that sport can have on society that can extend way beyond local boundaries.
While footballers like Rashford, born and bred in Greater Manchester, can have strong ties to their locality, the collaborative nature of clubs and players to work together regardless of traditional rivalries underlines the strength of sport to change the world.
The Laureus Sport for Good Response Fund, for instance, has been able to support more than 60 organisations across the world with grants to meet challenges related to the secondary effects of the pandemic and public health restrictions.
Giggs, the current Wales national manager, knows Rashford well and praised the young striker’s initiatives. He added: “I’m not surprised to have seen the great work that Marcus Rashford has done to help under-privileged children who have been adversely affected during the lockdown.
“He’s a great lad and has always had a strong connection to his community and his family, so it’s no wonder that he would want to use his profile to make a difference.
“What he’s done with food vouchers and the food campaigns is fantastic and I’m very proud of what he has achieved – but I suspect there is even more to come.”

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