As I park my rampant dislike of Manchester United, I applaud Marcus Rashford who, unlike his celebrity peers, has not only put his money where his mouth is, but proved himself to be an activist with a skill set to effect change.

His battle against the Government to save children going holiday hungry has gained huge traction, leading to businesses putting the bottom line to one side in order to ‘be nice’ and act for the greater good.

Yes, a cynic may surmise that giants such as McDonald's are receiving positive praise as their payback for an honourable deed, but they are damned if they do, as well as if they don’t, and all corporations, large and small, who are stepping up to the plate to help struggling families in their hour of need, deserve to be bathed in praise for their actions.

Sadly, inevitably, the usual process applies however where, instead of the ‘new normal’ or a ‘reset’, political parties cant help but, well, politicise. As well as praising Rashford, opposing politicians, individuals and groups far and wide are publicly shaming Tory MPs for voting against offering free meals. Now, this is not the first time such action has been undertaken, but it leaves a sour taste of mob rule in the mouth where, although the votes MPs cast are public knowledge, some feel the need to highlight the fact and embarrass their local representative. Even Rishi Sunak’s local has apparently ‘barred' him, which again sets a precedent where, as well as track and trace information, we may soon have to undertake a questionnaire upon entering a pub as to our political leanings. It echoes communist regimes of the past and however righteous the landlord, he should maybe stick to pulling pints and offering up pork scratchings and Nobby’s Nuts.

Read more: 'We need a fairer society, not free school meals'

However, damnation of the Tories for their vote against is ‘just’ many of us believe, but then we look to history as we read Labour's criticism of their inaction. Free meals through the holidays were never issued during their previous administrations although poverty was real then, as now. No mention has been made as to why this was not addressed when they had the opportunity to set the precedent.

And so, it was left to Marcus Rashford, a gifted footballer who, having been reportedly impoverished during his upbringing, is acting with warmth in his heart and honourable intent. Not for him the footballer downtime pursuits of playing Xbox or having dalliances with ladies of the night, and we are rightly all behind him. Yet, the ragtag nature of the implementation leaves a lot to be desired: pubs and restaurants are jumping on board, both independent and chain, to offer a meal to ‘those in need’ and that is where the system fails somewhat.

Epping Forest Guardian:

I, in my youth, spent many years on the jam roll, and, if you wanted to classify my financial health at the time, I would surmise it was ‘brassic’, as were many of my friends (the by-product of living in a seasonal seaside town I’m afraid). We all felt bitter: bitter at ‘living’ on £31.20 a week. Bitter at the lack of opportunity afforded us and bitter at being treated like dogs as we endured the weekly humiliation of signing our names at the benefits office, as we jumped through hoops to receive a green giro through the door a few days later.

Now, some will abuse the system, as we were wont to do when the opportunity presented itself back then. Given the choice of feeding your kids or a treat, be it a box of chocolates or a tub of Haagen-Dazs, we would arguably all choose our kids. By giving the option, some, not all, will no doubt claim the free McDonald's meal on offer and enjoy the choccies or ice cream by virtue of supping on the milk of human kindness.

The only way this type of system is going to work is by having a plan and a process as to how to ‘work it’. A head teacher I know had the right idea: over lockdown, he was aware that many students would go hungry. He bought thousands of pounds worth of supermarket vouchers and sent them directly to the families in need so they could go and fill up on food and his kindness.

With the lack of a coherent social hub in the UK now, due to Covid and the strangulation of funding toward the heartbeats of any community, be it a library or community centre, maybe local schools could act as that hub and receive offers from food outlets which they then distribute to their needy students on a child-by-child basis. It will cease abuse of the system and maybe embarrass the Government into reconsidering, when they realise that people power can manage to implement a system better than they ever have, as public opinion continues to drift further away from them with each passing day.

Epping Forest Guardian:

As for Marcus Rashford, I will be cheering him on through gritted teeth whenever I see him play from now on, with the only wish being that he were to display his sporting prowess at a proper football club that also happens to wear red.

  • Brett Ellis is a teacher