SOUTH Essex businesses have come together to help struggling families after a motion to offer free school meals during the holidays was voted down.

The campaign was spurred on by football star, Marcus Rashford, who is said to be in "despair" over the decision.

MPs controversially voted down the bid, with the motion being defeated by 322 votes to 261 after.


Five Conservatives rebelled against the Government to vote for the plan, which would have fed more than 1.4 million children during school breaks until Easter next year.

And in response, some south Essex firms are taking it upon themselves to help families living on low incomes across the area.

Hugo Rodrigues, owner of The Skewer House, in Rochford, will be making pre-made meals that can be frozen or put in the fridge to then heat in the microwave or oven.

On the Government's decision to go against free schools meals until Easter 2021, Hugo told the Echo: "It is sickening. I don't think people realise how many families worry about feeding their kids."

This isn't the first time Hugo has helped those who need it. Hugo, along with his 12-year-old son, Antonio, prepped hundreds of meals for homeless charities.

I took him along for him to realise and see how lucky we are to have food.

Echo: Kind - Hugo and his 12-year-old son Antonio making meals for the homelessKind - Hugo and his 12-year-old son Antonio making meals for the homeless

He, added: "We are doing the prep on Sunday to get all the food parcels delivered on Monday.

"We are getting a massive response. My son will be helping me cook as it's important for him to know to help others and not expect anything in return, and to do it for the right reasons."

Hugo posted on his Facebook page, encouraging families in need to get in touch.

The post reads: "Will be made with all our love and care and using fresh products if you need help let us know and we will provide you with 14 meals for each child delivered to your door.

Victoria Hazell, 37, owner of Peggy's Café, in Church Road, Benfleet, is also doing her bit to help.

She has set provisions from the businesses own budget to provide 160 lunch boxes for kids over half term next week. 


Victoria, from Benfleet, said: "I felt frustrated [by the news] and knew we had to do something when I heard their decision.

"There will be thousands of people in an extremely difficult situation at the minute due to losing jobs over the pandemic.

"We do lots to help the community and felt like this was something we definitely needed to do.

"Since posting, I've had 140 meals donated so it’s obviously something that the community feel strongly about too."

The café will have a post it note board going up where you can purchase a meal at a reduced rate of £2.50 to give a child a lunch.

The Labour motion - which called for the scheme to be extended over school holidays until Easter 2021 - was defeated by 261 votes to 322.

Rebecca Harris, MP for Castle Point, Sir David Amess, MP for Southend West, Mark Francois, MP for Rayleigh and Wickford, and Stephen Metcalfe, MP for South Basildon and East Thurrock, as well as John Baron, MP for Basildon and Billericay, and James Duddridge, MP for Rochford and Southend East, abstained from the vote.