Marcus Rashford and his mum help out at food charity after free school meals vote

ITV News Correspondent Martha Fairlie has more

Marcus Rashford and his mother have visited a food charity to help out after MPs voted against a motion to extend free school meals over the holidays - a campaign the footballer has championed.

The England international helped out at FareShare in Greater Manchester. The charity has just named a new warehouse in honour of the footballer's mum, Melanie.

A Labour motion for the free school meals scheme to be extended over school holidays until Easter 2021 was defeated in the House of Commons on Wednesday.

In the wake of the defeat, Rashford called on people to “unite” to protect the most vulnerable children after the vote.

The footballer has been sharing information on his Twitter page of councils, businesses, charities, and schools across the country all offering alternative schemes to support families through the holidays.

"When we stumble, there will always be a community to wrap their arms around us and pick us back up," he said, adding that for many people this help will come from food banks staffed by “selfless” volunteers who are dedicated to protecting the most vulnerable.

On Friday, Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham said the area's authorities will join Rashford and the Co-op supermarket to provide food vouchers to those who need them over half-term.

He said, via Twitter, that 1,000 food vouchers will be distributed - each can be exchanged for a meal deal offer in any local Co-op store.

Rashford’s petition urging the government to go further in tackling child hunger hit 100,000 signatures just 10 hours after it was launched.

The Manchester United footballer has spoken openly about he and his family relied upon schemes like free school meals as children.

Rashford received an MBE this year for his work on the free school meals campaign. Credit: PA

Earlier in the year, the footballer forced a government U-turn on free school meal vouchers for eligible pupils over the summer holidays. He has been an ambassador for national food redistribution charity FareShare since March 2020.

The charity said it has seen demand for food soar since the outbreak of Covid-19 and is now distributing double the amount of food in comparison to before the lockdown in March, enough food for two million meals each week.

To respond to the crisis, FareShare Greater Manchester has taken on additional warehouse space which could treble the amount of food distributed in the region - naming the space Melanie Maynard House after Rashford’s mother.

The new warehouse is in need of major refurbishment and the charity has launched a £300,000 fundraising appeal to fund it.

Rashford and his mother met staff and volunteers to see how the charity will be responding to soaring demand this Christmas.

He said: "The real superstars in this country can be found in the heart of most cities, towns and villages, working tirelessly to support our most vulnerable across the UK.

"As FareShare and other food-related charities approach one of the toughest Winters on record, with demand higher than ever before, it is important that I stay connected and lend my support wherever it is needed.

Credit: PA

"When we stumble, there will always be a community to wrap their arms around us and pick us back up. For many of us, that is FareShare or the local food bank.

“Food banks who are staffed with selfless volunteers, dedicating their lives to protecting those most vulnerable, those who, in many cases, have fallen into unforeseen circumstances due to illness, personal loss and unemployment.

“It should be noted that a lot of these volunteers have themselves suffered unemployment as a result of the pandemic, yet they still strive to help others less fortunate.

“That to me is the greatest example of what we can do, and the difference we can make, when we just work together.”

Rashford praised the government for changing the policy. Credit: PA/ITV News

In Greater Manchester alone, FareShare is now distributing more than 80 tonnes of food each week, equivalent to more than 200,000 meals.

Lindsay Boswell, chief executive of FareShare UK, added: “We are disappointed with the outcome of the vote, which would have been the first step on the road to providing some peace of mind to the millions of struggling UK families.

“FareShare continues to provide over two million meals each week to vulnerable communities across the UK and we stand ready to provide all the food we can obtain, so we can continue supporting those families and children that seek help to access good, healthy food.”

Rashford’s campaigning has also led to the the Child Food Poverty Taskforce, a group of leading organisations, including FareShare, which aims to tackle the issue.