Children and young people across Birmingham have taken part in a postcard campaign thanking football star and food poverty campaigner Marcus Rashford for his work to support families during the school holidays.

The England and Manchester United superstar has played a pivotal role in the campaign to ensure children and young people in disadvantaged communities have the support they need outside of term time. His bravery in talking about his own family’s struggles has led to a groundswell of public support, with charities and communities across the country coming together to call for action on child food poverty. The Government has also recognised the holiday provision gap as a pressing issue, committing £220m to the national Holiday Activities with Food (HAF) programme.

In Birmingham, thousands of children and young people took part in Bring it on Brum during the summer holiday, the largest holiday activity and food programme in the country. Delivered by Birmingham City Council in partnership with StreetGames and organisations from across the city, this HAF funded programme aimed to provide children eligible for Free School Meals and those with additional needs with the opportunity to take part in activities (e.g. cookery skills, sports, physical activity, arts and crafts) and to receive a nutritious meal, all free of charge in a safe environment.

In tribute to the work Marcus Rashford has done to highlight the need for these holiday clubs, postcards were distributed so that children and young people attending could share what they’d enjoyed by writing a short message to Marcus. In total, more than 2,000 young people took the time to share their happy experiences with the footy ace.

The programme was co-delivered by StreetGames alongside trusted, local organisations such as schools and community groups, and delivered a range of activities across the six-week school summer holiday.

Preliminary results from research conducted by the Healthy Living Lab at Northumbria University has found that the Birmingham HAF programme had a real and positive impact on children, young people, their parents and carers. Young people that attended 100 hours of Bring it on Brum sessions during the holiday were significantly more physically active during the summer than young people who didn’t attend holiday provision.

Perceived safety during Summer Holidays also increased amongst parents whose children participated in the programme, with 80.3% of parents reporting that they felt their children were safer whilst at a Bring it on Brum club compared to just 51% who felt their children were safe in their local neighbourhood.

Families whose children attended a Bring it on Brum holiday club said the programme also had a positive effect at preventing social isolation, raising aspirations, and boosting confidence.

Mark Lawrie, StreetGames Chief Executive, said:

“We’re incredibly proud of the difference this programme has made to the lives of children and young people across Birmingham. Given Marcus’ passionate advocacy we thought he’d appreciate the chance to see just what a difference his campaign and the support it has helped to secure has made to so many families.

Ensuring children who would be on Free School Meals during term time could still receive a healthy meal is an incredibly important mission. But just as important for many of the young people who

took part was having a chance to make new friends, socialise and get active in ways they might never have tried before.”

“One thing that really stood out is how many children talked about how much they enjoyed not just the food, but also the different sports, games and days out that will have given them so much to talk about when they got back to school in September. It’s such a powerful reminder of the difference projects like this can make, and I hope Marcus will see how much fun kids in Birmingham have had this summer and take heart that his campaign is making a real difference to people’s lives.”