Donations to York Foodbank have surged after the government refused to bow to pressure from footballer Marcus Rashford's campaign to extend free school meals to all eligible children this half term.

Foodbank volunteer Tony Gavin said there had been 'record donations' at supermarkets. On a normal Thursday there would be 20-30 crates to collect from Tesco at Askham Bar. Last Thursday there were 40 or 50, he said. And when volunteers got back to the Foodbank warehouse, they found that people had been making donations there, too.

"They ranged from little old ladies giving a carton of milk to the young couple who came with four carrier bags of stuff. I had tears in my eyes. I would like to thank the people of York for their incredible generosity."

Mr Gavin said the surge in donations was partly down to the 'Rashford effect'.

But there was also disbelief that Conservative MPs had voted against extending free school meals during the half term and subsequent holidays - a decision he described as 'callous'.

MPs last week voted down a bid tabled by Labour which would have seen disadvantaged families receive a £15 a week food voucher for each child during half term this week.

Across the country, local councils and local businesses have been stepping in to provide vouchers instead.

Last Friday, City of York Council approved £43,000 of emergency funding to provide more than 2,850 children with food vouchers this half-term. "We want to ensure that children who receive free school meals don’t go hungry this half-term," said council leader Keith Aspden.

As we reported over the weekend, a host of York businesses will also be offering free meals for children this week. They include fish and chip shops, cafés, pizza parlours and restaurants.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson yesterday insisted that no children would go hungry due to 'inattention' by his Government.

The government has temporarily increased Universal Credit by £20 a week to provide direct support to families that are most in need. And Mr Johnson hinted yesterday at extra support, promising to do 'everything in our power' to tackle holiday hunger over the winter and the upcoming Christmas break.

But there was still widespread anger in York at the government's failure to support Mr Rashford's campaign.

Mr Gavin said as furlough finished at the end of this month, there would be many families who would 'fall of a cliff' financially as breadwinners lost their jobs.

Sydnie Corley of the York Food Justice Alliance added that there were many York people who were 'really struggling' to put food on the table for their children. A temporary increase of £20 a week in Universal Credit was not enough, she said. Those claiming for the first time would face a wait of weeks before receiving any money. "It is horrible."

York Outer Conservative MP Julian Sturdy said the extension of the school meal voucher scheme over the summer was only ever intended as a temporary measure. But he added that when the Government was spending billions of pounds on Covid support measures, it was "hard to justify not continuing a scheme to help families on the lowest incomes".

"I would call on the Government to rethink this policy in time for the Christmas holidays," he said. "Like other Covid support measures, it is right that this should only be a temporary measure, but the Government would be better keeping it in place until the economy picks up and family finances are back on a more secure footing." 

Ms Maskell said it was 'really obvious' that the free school meal voucher scheme should have been extended.

Free school meals over the summer had been a 'lifeline' for many, she said. "There is a high level of need in York, and it is so important that we support these families. I have spoken to many of them over the last few months. These people are literally on the breadline. With Christmas coming up they (the government) are going to have to do something."