AN MP has voted in favour of extending free school meals across the summer holidays.

South Lakes MP Tim Farron has voted to extend free school meals to eligible children after Number 10 said the scheme would not be prolonged through the October half-term.

England footballer Marcus Rashford has been campaigning to have the scheme extended after his efforts earlier in the coronavirus crisis saw the government U-turn to provide free school meals to eligible children during the summer holidays.

The vote comes after more than 200 people in South Lakeland’s parliamentary constituencies have signed a petition to tackle food poverty spearheaded by Rashford.

The Manchester United and England star, who forced the Government into a U-turn over the provision of food vouchers during school holidays earlier this year, has kicked off his campaign by saying ‘we must act with urgency’ to make sure no child worries about what they are going to eat.

As of Thursday, 244 people in across the Westmorland and Lonsdale and Barrow and Furness constituencies - in which South Lakeland sits - had signed the petition urging the Government to take action.

It calls for free school meals to be extended to every child from a household on Universal Credit or an equivalent benefit.

A government-commissioned report published earlier this year said expanding the scheme in this way could see it reach an additional 1.5 million seven to 16-year-olds across England.

The petition also calls for free meals to be provided throughout holidays as well as during term time.

Finally, it says ‘healthy start’ vouchers – given to eligible women who are pregnant or those with young children to buy basic foods – should be raised from £3.10 to £4.25 per week and made available to all those on Universal Credit or a similar benefit.

Marcus Rashford, who was recently awarded an MBE for services to vulnerable children, said: “Child food poverty in the UK is not a result of Covid-19. We must act with urgency to stabilise the households of our vulnerable children."

In South Lakeland’s constituencies, 2,551 children were eligible for free schools meals in the last school year, the latest Department for Education figures show.

A spokeswoman for the Government said: “We have taken substantial action to make sure children and families do not go hungry by extending free school meals when schools closed, increasing welfare support by £9.3 billion, and giving councils £63 million to provide emergency support to families for food and other essentials.

“We also appreciate it has been a challenging time for families, which is why we have increased the safety net available to them with income protection schemes, mortgage holidays and support for renters.

“We are grateful to Marcus Rashford for his work shining a light on the significant challenges families are facing at this time.”