Local councils could be given extra money to fund holiday clubs to solve the free school meals row and offer Boris Johnson a way out of the crisis.

The Holiday Activity and Food programme is the brainchild of Henry Dimbleby, the Government’s food tsar and co-founder of the Leon restaurant chain, and was piloted across 17 local authorities over the summer.

It would allow children to be given at least one meal a day outside of school time, and could be combined with extra study time to help pupils catch up on missed education.

It is too late for the scheme to be implemented over half-term, but it has been reported Mr Johnson was considering putting it in place for the Christmas holidays.

The Government is facing mounting public anger over its refusal to extend free school meals into half-term and beyond following a campaign spearheaded by England footballer Marcus Rashford.

Dr Robert Winston, a Labour peer, warned Mr Dimbleby’s plans did not go far enough.

Speaking on Newsnight, he said he had read the report “from cover to cover” and added: “It doesn’t remotely cover the problem.”

Dr Winston said poor nutrition led to “a rise in depression and decrease in cognitive ability – you can’t learn when you’re starving”.

You don't have to suffer in silence if you're struggling with your mental health. Here are some groups you can contact when you need help:

Samaritans: Phone 116 123, 24 hours a day, or email [email protected], in confidence

Childline: Phone 0800 1111. Calls are free and won't show up on your bill

PAPYRUS: A voluntary organisation supporting suicidal teens and young adults. Phone 0800 068 4141

Depression Alliance: A charity for people with depression. No helpline but offers useful resources and links to other information on its website

Students Against Depression: A website for students who are depressed, have low mood, or are suicidal. Click here to visit

Bullying UK: A website for both children and adults affected by bullying. Click here

Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM): For young men who are feeling unhappy. Has a website here and a helpline: 0800 58 58 58

A petition started by Manchester United star Rashford for free meals to be extended in England over the school holidays was nearing one million signatures on Monday evening.

The Prime Minister insisted on Monday the Government would not allow children to go hungry. He claimed money given to councils and Universal Credit were "the best ways you can help families in this tough time”.

Universal Credit had been increased by £20 a week while £63 million was announced in June by ministers to help local authorities feed vulnerable families – although officials expect that money to have largely been spent already.

“I totally understand the issue of holiday hunger, it is there, we have to deal with it,” Mr Johnson said. “The debate is how do you deal with it.”

Rashford has used his social media profile to highlight examples of businesses that have pledged to help with meals for local children.

Posting on Twitter on Monday evening, he called for businesses to let him know how many meals they had supplied on the first day of half-term.

Rashford’s post was quickly flooded with responses, with people, restaurants and community groups sharing their stories.