VENUES across the region have leapt to the aid of struggling families by offering free or discounted food for those in need this half-term.

The move comes as MPs voted this week against England football star Marcus Rashford’s bid to extend free school meals over the half-term holidays.

In response, scores of venues including Manjaros in Middlesbrough, Page's Bakery in Tow Law and Babul's in Barnard Castle are just some of the eateries across the region to announce they will help families cover the cost of their meals. 

Babul's has pledged to provide 1,500 meals for families across the community and says it will be preparing 100 meals every day for the next 15-days which will be available to collect daily between 4pm and 5pm.

Page's Bakery says it will offer free children's lunches throughout the half-term for anybody who needs them, while Majaros said it would offer free essentials for Middlesbrough families in need throughout the half term.

And The Platform 1 pub, in Middleton St George, Darlington, is offering free meals from their children's menu thoroughout half-term as landlord Paul Raffiq explains: "It is absolutely awful times we are going through, I feel that our community should all come together and do whatever we can for families.

"We don't want our children to go hungry."

Mr Raffiq said that parents would not be expected to buy a meal from the pub, simply that they could bring their children in to enjoy a free meal.

He added: "I am a family man myself.

"We are a small village pub and I just want all the villagers to get together and help families where we can because it is an awful time we are going through at the moment."

The Northern Echo:

Marcus Rashford

Footballer Marcus Rashford has been retweeting and praising the venues' announcements throughout the last 24-hours.

The North-East venues join scores of eateries across the country offering deals after the government decided against issuing free school dinner vouchers to low income families during the holidays.

The Northern Echo:

After seeing so many venues rush to help hard-hit families, Rashford tweeted: "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."

North Durham Labour MP Kevan Jones told The Northern Echo today that he was proud of the way that businesses were stepping in to help struggling familes but said the government should be 'ashamed' of voting against the voucher scheme.

He said: "It just shows the strong community we have got in County Durham and credit to all those individuals and organisations that are doing this.

"But that doesn't excuse why the government hasn't stepped in, either to fund the work of these organisations or provide free school meals.

"That doesn't take away anything of the great things they are doing, but I think the government should be ashamed and our County Durham MPs who voted against these proposals should be ashamed that they are not supporting the most vulnerable children in our society."

On Wednesday evening MPs rejected Labour's motion to offer free school meal vouchers until Easter 2021 by 322 votes to 261.