Southend Council are pulling out all the stops to make sure no child in the borough goes hungry this winter, and are investigating a scheme to provide free school meals to those who are eligible over the Christmas holiday.

It comes after a campaign, spearheaded by Manchester United player Marcus Rashford MBE, was last week voted against by a number of MP's.

The Labour motion - which called for the free meals scheme to be extended over school holidays until Easter 2021, was defeated by 261 votes to 322 – majority 61.

Furious at the vote, campaigners even placed empty plates outside the office of Sir David Amess on Sunday morning in a symbolic protest after he voted against the motion.

Now, Southend Council is looking to call together a community summit, with the hopes of bringing together the entire community in response to the blow.

Anne Jones, cabinet member for children and learning, said: "We are deeply disappointed by the government's decision not to fund a nationwide free schools meal programme.

"As a council we have seen our budget hit by the consequences of Covid, but we still intend to act to make sure no child goes hungry in Southend.

"We are investigating the cost and practicality of a council backed scheme to provide free school meals to eligible children over the Christmas holiday.

"Additionally, we are working to convene a summit of food banks and other charities to make sure that there are no gaps in provision."

And despite circumtances, Southend Council have continued their annual pledge to host what this year will be Southend's seventh Toy Drive - a project set up to gift Christmas presents to vulnerable children who may not have the opportunity to celebrate Christmas like most.

Gifts from the Toy Drive will be distributed to local children’s centres, food banks, refuges and children’s parties set up by local charities.

Trevor Harp, cabinet member for health and adult Social Care, added: "The economic consequences of Covid mean that this is going to be a Christmas like no other, with the potential for many families to be pushed in to poverty.

"Despite the government's refusal to act, we have been deeply moved by the enthusiasm shown by charities and by ordinary residents to make sure that no child goes without.

"We have already made arrangements to make sure that the council's annual Toy Drive still goes ahead, to bring festive cheer where we can.

"Whilst currently Southend remains in the medium tier and so not subject to the more stringent regulations in place in other parts of the country, we simply do not know what the situation at Christmas will be, and must be prepared for any eventuality."

For more information on the Toy Drive, visit​