Marcus Rashford: “An athlete is the least we can be. Sport can be the biggest driver of positive change, with its ability to truly unite.” (Photo courtesy of ESPN)

Manchester United and England forward Marcus Rashford will receive the Pat Tillman Award for Service at The 2021 ESPYS airing July 10 at 8 p.m. ET on ABC, it was announced Monday morning.

Rashford has raised millions in donations alongside food charity FareShare during the COVID-19 pandemic. Having grown up the youngest of five children in one of the more deprived areas of Manchester, Rashford has spoken of his own experience of food poverty, saying he relied on free school meals and “the kind actions of neighbors and coaches.”

He was recently named to TIME’s Top 100 List for his advocacy work on homelessness and child hunger.

“An athlete is the least we can be,” Rashford said in a statement. “Sport can be the biggest driver of positive change, with its ability to truly unite. If I have achieved anything over the last year I would hope that it would be to demonstrate to my peers what is possible when we are driven by a passion and determination for better. Better not for ourselves, but for those whose voices are very rarely heard. We have a platform to speak on behalf of millions. When we wake up in the morning, we decide what we want to do with that platform. The reward of helping just one will always outweigh the risk of any negativity or criticism thrown my way. I’m honoured to be this year’s recipient of the Pat Tillman Award. A huge thank you to all involved.”

Rashford became a household name in the United Kingdom beyond footballing circles when he took the British government to task on child hunger in the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the UK, low-income families with children qualify for free school meals, ensuring that they have a hot lunch (and sometimes breakfast) at school at no cost. When the pandemic hit, many of these working families saw their income fall further as a result of being laid-off or having their hours reduced, and were left struggling to feed their families during school holidays and extended closures in the pandemic.

The government had refused to help, but Rashford shamed them into doing so when he wrote an open letter to members of parliament, calling for support. Rashford said that he too would have been going hungry had this happened during his childhood, and that he was able to succeed thanks to a compassionate society. The letter drew huge media coverage, and led to the government making a U-turn on the issue.

“Marcus raised millions and brought together a coalition of restaurants and groceries to ensure that vulnerable children and families had enough to eat as the pandemic closed off resources to them in Great Britain. But he didn’t stop there — he twice took on the UK government to extend food benefits to families and he won. He saw a wrong and used his platform to guide those around him to making it right,” said Marie Tillman, board chair and co-founder of the Pat Tillman Foundation. “Marcus’ passion for ending child poverty, inspired by his own experiences with food insecurity, mirror Pat’s passion for leading by example and identifying where he could unite others to make an impact.”

The Pat Tillman Award for Service was established in 2014 to commemorate the former NFL player and U.S. Army Ranger’s legacy, and honoring an individual with a strong connection to sports who has served others in a way that echoes Tillman’s legacy.