The soccer star created policy change after advocating for the British government to continue offering meals for children in need during holiday breaks during the pandemic
Footballer Marcus Rashford is made an MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) by the Duke of Cambridge
Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

Marcus Rashford's goal is being celebrated by his most prominent supporter: Prince William!

The Manchester United and England striker, 24, was invested by the 39-year-old royal as an MBE on Tuesday during a ceremony at Windsor Castle. Rashford's advocacy for the British government to provide free school meals for children in underserved communities during the coronavirus pandemic pushed the government to extend the program during winter and summer breaks, creating policy change, according to ESPN.

The mission is personal for the soccer star, who was the recipient of free school meals growing up and has spoken about facing food insecurity through childhood.

"Congratulations @MarcusRashford. Keep continuing the vital work you are doing for vulnerable children across the UK," the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge wrote from their official Twitter account, sharing a photo of Prince William, 40, awarding Rashford the medal, alongside an image of the professional athlete with his mother Melanie Maynard, who attended the ceremony as his guest, in the palace gardens.

Writing back, Rashford said "An honour to spend the morning with you @KensingtonRoyal. Thank you for making the day so special for me and mum very proud."

Marcus Rashford with his mother Melanie Rashford
Credit: Andrew Matthews - WPA Pool/Getty Images

The soccer player dedicated his award to his mother and pledged to keep working for an end to child hunger, the BBC reported. Maynard raised her son and his three siblings as a single mother on minimum wage, and has been recognized in her own right for her work in the fight to end food poverty, the outlet said. 

"There's a lot of work to be done," Rashford told the press after the ceremony, per ESPN. "We're nowhere near where we want to be, or where we feel the kids deserve to be. We've just got to stick at it and keep going."

The day was just as special for the Duke of Cambridge, who wrote in a personal message on Twitter that he was glad to be conducting investitures in person again after pausing the ceremonies due to COVID-19 concerns amid the pandemic.

"Pleased to be back doing investitures in person, celebrating people across the UK who have gone above and beyond for their country and community," the royal wrote, signing off "W."

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William and Rashford connected over the summer, when the royal denounced the racist online vitriol lodged at the athlete and his fellow Team England players Bukayo Saka and Jadon Sancho, after they missed penalty kicks that helped secure Italy's win in the Euro 2020 final.

"I am sickened by the racist abuse aimed at England players after last night's match. It is totally unacceptable that players have to endure this abhorrent behaviour," the prince, who is President of the Football Association that governs the game in England, said in a statement issued on social media. " It must stop now and all those involved should be held accountable."

Prince Charles also spoke in support of Rashford and the team soon after the incident, sharing an excerpt from his speech on Windrush Day 2020 in the U.K., when he noted how "the rich diversity of cultures which make this country so special — and in many ways unique — lies at the heart of what we can be as a nation." Many saw the quote as a response to the racist abuse that the three Team England players received online.

Later, in conversation with the U.K.'s Radio 4 about sustainable farming, he named Rashford among a select few celebrities whose work aligns with his own passion, lauding the soccer star "whose mission off the football field is to tackle child hunger."