MILLIONS of pounds will help put food on the table for the lowest paid families across Essex this Christmas, with County Hall given the second highest amount across the UK.

The vulnerable across the county will be supported with food vouchers or direct food supplies after local authorities were handed more than £4million by central Government.

Essex County Council is set to receive upwards of £3.8m, only beaten by Birmingham with £5.1million.

Southend Council will be given £500,000, but told the Echo they are yet to finalise where the funding will be spent.

This comes after an inspirational campaign from footballer Marcus Rashford, which first saw him reverse a Government decision on free schools meals.

This “winter blanket” of funding comes after crunch talks between the England and Manchester United forward and Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Ministers have instructed councils to direct funding into foodbanks, food vouchers, or as direct payment for meals.

The county council has indicated £2.1million will be spent on free school meals, alongside £500,000 put towards the “essential living fund”, which includes food, fuel, household goods, and clothes.

Louise McKinlay, councillor in charge of children and families at Essex County Council, said, “Winter can be tough at the best of times and every penny counts for families at Christmas.

“Clearly, this year more than ever, people are struggling financially or emotionally due to the pandemic.

“So, we are using all the resources we can to put a protective blanket of winter support around those families who need it most.”

Southend Council’s funding is one of the lowest amounts dished out to a local authority across the country.

This has been put down to the size of the council.

Anne Jones, councillor in charge of children and learning, said 80 per cent of the funding will be used for families with the other percentage for children specifically.

She said: “We are pleased that we will be receiving this additional Government funding to provide further winter support to local people and families up to March 2021.

“We already have a number of different schemes in place to support vulnerable people, but this funding will help us to provide further support and reach more of those who are struggling at what is already a difficult time.

“We are currently finalising our detailed programme of targeted support and will announce more on this shortly.” Thurrock Council has also received £500,000.