BUSINESSES across Essex have been thanked by footballer Marcus Rashford for stepping up to feed hungry children over half term.

This week several restaurants and cafés will serve free lunches to children in need including Burgers, Wings and Ribs, in Colchester.

Owner Jack Shaw said: “I am kind of doing this to repay my own debt to society. I was quite fortunate as a kid in that I grew up in a home where I had a mum and dad who cared, who worked hard and I could come home to a hot meal.

“This isn’t about getting exposure, we are doing well enough without it. We simply want to feed some kids who otherwise would be going hungry.

“Our suppliers are helping with things like free burger buns.”

Premier League forward Rashford is tagging business which have stepped in to feed children in need during the October half term.

The wave of support comes after Conservative MPs defeated a motion to extend a free school meals scheme across the school holidays.

The motion was defeated by a majority of 61.

Mr Shaw added: “I am angry.

“The idea of any child not having a hot meal once a day is awful.

“I have been in some very dark places in my life, but I have always known I could at least get food.

“Those who voted against it have said this is a short term solution and not a long term plan.

“I understand, but half term is now, and the idea of any kid not being able to eat is horrible.

“We may get 1,000 kids turn up but we will do what we can to feed everyone we can.”

Burgers, Wings and Ribs will serve free meals for children between 3pm and 5pm on Tuesday and midday and 3pm on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday this week.

Manchester United star Rashford tweeted his support to the Gilt Rooms, a tea room and Italian restaurant in West Mersea, after the venue pledged its support to struggling families.

The restaurant said: “Next week is half term and we are fully aware of the challenges facing everyone.

“We would just like to help.

“There is no judgment, just a friendly team offering this to every child that comes through our doors next week.

“From Tuesday to Saturday from midday to 2.30pm, a free hot meal for any child.”

People across Colchester are donating to Monkwick Munch Club, which provides free hot lunches for children during school holidays.

Rashford told his followers: “I am blown away by news of local businesses stepping up to fill the voucher scheme deficit during the October half term.

“Selflessness, kindness, togetherness, this is the England I know.”󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿

“I will share as many as I can.”