Mancunians and Liverpudlians unite to provide free half-term meals to children after Marcus Rashford campaign

·3-min read

In South Manchester, just around the corner from where Manchester United star Marcus Rashford grew up, one cafe bar is responding to the call to offer free meals to children and their families who desperately need it.

Rustik in Didsbury will be providing free breakfasts during the October half-term, just one of many businesses who've rallied together to support the footballer's campaign to end child poverty.

It comes as a senior Conservative politician said the party had "misunderstood the mood of the country" over the extension of free school meals.

Ella Routledge is the manager here and she believes as a local business they have an important role to step up and help locals who need it.

"Families are really important to us. The fact that children are going hungry is something we don't stand by, if there's something we can do to help them then we want to.

"It doesn't cost us much, we just decided it was something we felt was appropriate. Even if people don't come, the option's there, and having that option is something we shouldn't take for granted.

"The Rashford family come in here, we know how important it is for them, it's just a really nice feeling knowing we are supporting them and people who desperately need it."

Around 20 miles down the M62, in Liverpool, there's often not much love and support for Manchester United players. But this city has some of the highest rates of poverty in the country and Rashford's campaign has united even the unlikeliest of foes.

Like Keith Perryman, who is the owner of The Watering Can restaurant in Liverpool.

As someone who once worked with disadvantaged children, the move to help provide food to the vulnerable was a no brainer.

"We're inspired by Marcus Rashford and we felt that we could play a very small part by giving out packed lunches to children in Liverpool given there is a 70% poverty rate in the city and the Tory government is not stepping up to the mark to help people," Mr Perryman said.

"It struck a chord with myself, and you look at the volume of poverty in Liverpool so you feel you should step up and do something. We're doing a small part but it's important to be a part of the wider movement."

According to reports in the Liverpool Echo, some parts of Liverpool have a child poverty rate of 69%. The figure for the whole of Merseyside sits at around 21%.

Many Liverpudlians have praised the work of the Manchester United star even though to them he may be the wrong red.

Mr Perryman said: "I'm not a big football fan, but it doesn't matter what team you support, it's a good cause and as many people should jump on the bandwagon as possible.

"Moving forward now it's a very small amount of money proportionately to help children, but the government haven't stepped up to the mark.

"Without the support of independent businesses there would be a lot of hungry children across the city."

There is clear anger towards the government, not just in Marcus Rashford's home city, but around the country.

The government is adamant it is doing enough to support free school meals and says help is in place for those who need it.

But it's clear the pressure on the government is mounting, and perhaps the goodwill and anger of a united country could soon force yet another U-turn.

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