Rashford shares work of boxing club serving free meals for kids

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Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford has highlighted the work of a Newtownabbey boxing club, who are providing free breakfasts to young people in need during school holidays.

The 22-year-old striker, who has gained national attention in recent months for his activism in raising awareness about food poverty in the UK, highlighted a post from Monkstown Boxing Club on Twitter.

The post shared how the club would be providing free breakfasts to children and young people throughout the week as schools close for half-term.

Rashford has been continuing to share details about charities, cafes, restaurants and councils throughout the UK which are providing free meals to children in poverty during half-term.

This was in response to the UK government rejecting a call to extend free school meals over the holidays.

Marcus Rashford

Speaking today about the work going on in Monkstown Boxing Club, Lead Youth Worker Amy Stewart told Belfast Live: “Hunger doesn’t take a holiday, that’s what Marcus Rashford has highlighted with his work. It think it’s amazing that he’s raised such an important message with his platform. No child should be hungry and no child should have to worry about where their next meal is coming from.”

Amy said she initially saw the retweet on the club’s social media, but didn’t initially appreciate the significance. 

She jokes: “I had to ask some of the young people who he was!”

“But the young people were buzzing to see that Marcus Rashford had highlighted our club.

“A lot of the young people would follow all our social media channels, so I think that was definitely a hit with them. And the fact that he did that for us – it made you feel like he’s really bought in what he’s doing. It wasn’t just him highlighting his local area, he’s highlighting everywhere throughout the UK.”

Amy said that the first day of their free breakfast service, which started today, had been buzzing.

“It was really busy,” she said. “Sometimes on the first day, people will maybe scope it out and then let their friends come, but today was quite busy from the get-go.

“We’re based in Monkstown, but we’re not turning away anybody coming from anywhere. All we ask for when people enter is their name, a temperature, and for them to sanitise their hands.”

Young Leaders Anna Stitt and Craig Bowers

The club had previously run a service during the first Covid lockdown, but Amy said that the financial strain put on families at the moment has led the club to providing this service once again.  

She said: “Following on from our Covid-19 service, we saw the need to reduce food poverty within children and young people.

“We usually run a breakfast club and afterschools programme as part of our daily services, but due to Covid we’ve to put that on hold.

“However, due to this second lockdown, and knowing that there’s such financial pressure on families at the moment, it was clear that we needed to do something.

“We understand that there are so many parents who are at risk of losing their jobs or who already have. There’s so many single parent families in the area that we work in, and they might have lost their only source of income. It’s all just a bit unknown.

Inside Monkstown Boxing Club’s free breakfast service

“Then obviously school holidays add that extra bit of pressure, with many asking where the money is coming from for the next school meal. The anxiety and worry around how families are going to get by, and even Christmas worries added to that – it’s easy to create a panic.

“So we saw the opportunity to, firstly, do something that’s for young people, give them a safe space, let them have a nutritional breakfast. But secondly, also take the financial strain off parents. We understand that mental health is up there as well as food poverty, so we just want to provide a space for young people and to take that strain off families.”

While Amy says that the young people were thrilled to see their club highlighted by Marcus Rashford, she also makes clear that local heroes have always been helping out in their brilliant, community-led club.

“We have always had our local heroes who have been amazing to us throughout the years,” she said, “including the likes of Carl Frampton and Steven Ward. They’ve supported us from the moment when Covid hit. They went out with staff and volunteers to deliver food parcels and packages to some of the local residents.”

Monkstown Boxing Club’s brilliant initiative comes as a web development group, Silverchip, have launched a school meal finder website, which highlights the numerous amazing eateries that are providing free meals over the half-term and helping ensure families, living in poverty, don’t go hungry.

In just under 24 hours, they’ve had more than 900 businesses sign up, two of which are based in Northern Ireland – Edge Coffee (in Holywood) and Loaf Bakery (on Grosvenor Road in Belfast).





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