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Marcus Rashford: Man Utd star a 'hero' in Wythenshawe

By Stewart Whittingham
BBC News

media captionMan Utd's Rashford speaks about mother's sacrifices in his bid to end food poverty

Footballer Marcus Rashford has been hailed a "real hero" by people in the area of Manchester where he grew up.

The Manchester United and England forward, 22, persuaded the government to extend the free school meal vouchers scheme in England throughout the summer after he penned an open letter to MPs.

The government had previously insisted it would not award vouchers outside term time.

In his #maketheUturn campaign, Rashford recalled relying on free school meals and food banks as a boy in Wythenshawe.

So what do people there make of his success?

'Great role model'

image captionChristian Latimer and daughter Mia says the Manchester United star "stood up for those who need it"

Christian Latimer's six-year-old daughter Mia has benefited from free schools meals during the lockdown.

The 27-year-old shop worker praised Rashford for his "amazing" campaign.

He said: "He showed great fight and he has achieved so much in helping families who struggle to feed their children.

"Mia had them [free meals] at school and it is a great support and boost for families.

"Marcus has stood up for those who need it,.

"As a United fan I thought he was great before but now he has shown the whole country what sort of a person he is off the pitch.

"I know he visits his old school and gives presents out to the kids.

"He is a great role model."

'Credit to the area'

image captionFormer neighbour Anson James says Marcus Rashford "always had a ball"

Rashford's former neighbours recall him playing football as a boy in front of his house in the Northern Moor area.

"He played out the front all the time with his brother," Anson James, 45, said.

"He always had a ball with him.

"People living round here don't have a lot of money so his family would have struggled.

"He is a great credit to the area with everything he has done."

Mike Graham, 51, said Rashford was also given free chicken patties from his favourite Caribbean takeaway J S Rhythm.

"He was so polite that the people who ran it would give him free food now and again as he did not have the money to buy it," Mr Graham said.

"He's a smashing lad."

'Credit to the country'

image captionKate Jenner lives in Rashford's former family home

HR worker Kate Jenner, 31, lives in Rashford's old house which she rents from his family.

The footballer lived in the semi-detached home from 2006.

She said: "Marcus has been back to the area and the house a few times. What he has done is amazing to stand up for those in poverty and taking on the government.

"He is a credit to the country."

'Crisis point'

image captionNeighbours recall the England international playing football outside his house

The Bideford Community Centre in Wythenshawe has turned into a food hub during lockdown and said volunteers "leapt up and down" when they heard the free meals scheme was being extended through the holidays.

"We're over the moon and so proud of Marcus," said Kirsty Taylor from the centre.

"This will make such a difference because we really are at crisis point.

"There is a lot of poverty in this area and we have been so worried - it is heartbreaking to see children hungry."

She added: "We have been making 1,000-1,200 meals a week since the lockdown."

'Fighting for poor families'

Kerry James, 31, who has used local foodbanks to help feed her two daughters, aged six and nine, said: "It can be such a struggle to give them food and clothes.

"I've gone hungry so they can eat and it's heartbreaking sometimes when I can't get them all they need."

She added: "Marcus is a hero that he is fighting for poor families and made the government change [its] mind."

Rashford's former head teacher Emma Roberts at Button Lane Primary School said the footballer was "a real hero to our children" and staff were "really proud".

The school has twice the national average number of pupils eligible for the free school meals.

She said some families faced further financial strains with unemployment or reduction in working hours as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Rashford's old football club Fletcher Moss FC also praised their former player.

It tweeted his actions show "how footballers can help their own and other communities" adding it was "very proud of him".

Mike Kane, MP for Wythenshawe and Sale, tweeted the footballer had "made a real difference to children's lives".

He said Wythenshawe was "so very proud of you", adding he was an "outstanding role model".

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Related Topics

  • Free school meals
  • Food banks
  • Manchester
  • Wythenshawe
  • Marcus Rashford

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