There is a tradition in AlixPartners’ Manchester office to name communal rooms after local themes. Following our Manchester team’s move in Spring 2020, the theme “prominent Mancunians” was agreed, kicking off a round of nominations and anonymous voting to name the rooms in the new space, located on Manchester’s historic King Street.
During the pandemic, which coincided with the office move, Marcus Rashford, a young striker for Manchester United and England’s national football team, was making headlines for his efforts to fight child hunger after the UK closed its schools in response to the pandemic, resulting in thousands of disadvantaged children no longer having access to free school meals.
For many children, the meals they receive at school are their only consistent source of nutritious food, something Rashford himself experienced throughout his childhood. Rashford donated his time and money to food banks and charities and successfully lobbied the government on two occasions to provide more support to families in need.
Our Manchester team was inspired by Rashford’s commitment and personal connection to the issue of child hunger and decided to name their office’s new wellness room the “Rashford.”
“His work on this issue was one of the few positive news stories at that time, and we wanted to recognize him in some way,” Manchester-based Director Catherine Williamson said.
This small gesture established a bond between the office and the footballer that would strengthen following England’s loss in the Euro finals in Summer 2021.
Rashford was one of three Black players to miss for England in the penalty shootout that decided the game. All three players received racist messages and threats on social media, and a mural of Rashford in Manchester was defaced.
“Within 24 hours, the racist graffiti on the mural had been covered up with supportive messages,” Catherine explained. “We thought there was power in this story about how the community came together to support him, and we wanted to make sure that his good work wasn’t forgotten because of one missed penalty.”
Catherine and the Manchester team presented Rashford’s story at one of AlixPartners’ Black Professionals Network (BPN) employee resource group’s meetings.
Inspired by Rashford’s story, BPN donated to Magic Breakfast which offers healthy breakfasts to children living with food insecurity and aims to end child morning hunger. AlixPartners has been a long-time supporter of the charity, which has also partnered with Rashford and Macmillan Children’s Books to launch the Marcus Rashford Book Club, a collaboration that has provided free books to thousands of children at Magic Breakfast partner schools.
“I knew about Marcus Rashford and his charity work but hearing how his story resonated with our Manchester colleagues impacted me on a different level,” BPN’s London office lead Tunde Gbajumo said.
“I think it’s a great example of how BPN can address issues that are important to our people at a community level.”
Since first supporting Magic Breakfast, AlixPartners has donated enough for more than 100,000 nutritious breakfasts for schoolchildren across the UK.
“Marcus Rashford saw an injustice being done and felt a responsibility to use his voice to ensure that action was taken,” Catherine said. “AlixPartners empowers its people to do the same thing—to take positive action when it is needed. We have a lot of autonomy, including through our ERGs and our local offices, to support the causes that matter to us.”