Marcus Rashford said everyone in the country has a duty to give young people “the best chance at life” after being recognised at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards show for his efforts in tackling child food poverty.
The England and Manchester United forward was given a Panel Special Award at the event in Salford on Sunday evening.
He successfully lobbied the Government into a U-turn over its free school meals policy in England during the first coronavirus lockdown, ensuring children in need would receive meals over the summer.
He was awarded an MBE during October in the delayed Queen’s Birthday Honours list.
Rashford’s mother, Melanie Maynard, has said that she would sometimes go without food to ensure her children could eat.
The 23-year-old said on receiving his award: “Growing up as a kid I felt if it was a 100 metre race I started 50 metres behind everybody else.
“It was more difficult for me to do the basic things like getting to training, eat the right things, it was a nightmare of a situation to be in, but in the end I got to where I needed to get to.
“Once I got there I just had this thing that eats at me saying, ‘Make sure you make a difference for the next generation’.
“I think as a country we should protect them as much as we can and give them the best chance at life and become whatever it is they want to become.
Further campaigning saw the Government backtrack and announce free meals would be provided to disadvantaged children over the Christmas holidays.
Rashford has formed a child food poverty task force, linking up with some of the nation’s biggest supermarkets and food brands, and is an ambassador for the FareShare charity which fights against hunger and food waste.
He paid tribute to his mother’s sacrifice and said: “Everything I get from what I’ve done, it will always sit in her house and it will sit where she can see it every day because she’s the person who, in difficult circumstances, brought me up to become a person that has morals.
“My friends will tell you I haven’t changed since we were kids.”