Essex County Council has outlined plans to help keep deprived children from going hungry over the school holidays.

The move comes less than a week after Conservative MPs voted against Labour’s motion for free school meals to be extended over school holidays until Easter 2021.

The motion, which was inspired by England and Manchester United star Marcus Rashford, was defeated by 261 votes to 322.

Despite only five Conservative MPs voting to extend the scheme, the Tory-run county county has announced it will extend its ‘holiday hunger’ scheme over the October half term.

The scheme will see 33 programmes available across the county and more than 1,000 children provided with free activities and food.

This scheme is an extension of the council’s summer holidays programme which provided free childcare and food for working families and saw 3,548 children take part.

The programme works with schools, foodbanks, churches, charities, and local authorities to identify families who would benefit.

In addition, the council is launching a half term emergency fund scheme for foodbanks to apply for a grant up to £2,500.

Cllr Louise McKinlay, cabinet member for children and families, said: “We are committed to making sure that no child in Essex goes hungry. I want to reach out to families to reassure them that there is support available with two key schemes for this half term.

“First, our holiday hunger programme is starting from Monday. It will benefit our children and their families who are most in need in our county, providing them with access to a meal, additional support as well as free activities.

“Second, we are also offering funding to foodbanks and other organisations that are a lifeline to many, especially during school holidays. These two areas of support, whilst focused on half term are part of the continuing offer for families and I would like to reassure everyone that we are working to respond to the very real challenges faced by many Essex families at this time.”

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