Hero footballer Marcus Rashford says he "couldn’t be more proud to call myself British" after hundreds of businesses rallied around his school meals campaign.

The Manchester United star thanked the businesses - many of which are struggling themselves after six months of disruption - for offering half term food for vulnerable children.

His efforts to ensure hungry kids get fed during half term suffered a hammer blow on Wednesday, when the Tories torpedoed a bid to offer meals during school holidays for the next six months.

But today restaurants, cafes, football clubs and local authorities stepped up after cruel Conservatives refused to pay to help the most needy.

In a statement to BBC's Newsnight, Rashford, 22, said: "Growing up we didn't have a lot, but we always had the safety net of the community.

On Wednesday the Tories blocked plans to provide free meals to children during the school holidays

"That community was my family. When we stumbled, we were caught with open arms. Even at their lowest point, having felt the devastating effects of the pandemic, local businesses have wrapped arms around their communities today, catching vulnerable children as they fell. I couldn't be more proud to call myself British tonight.

"I am truly overwhelmed by the outpouring of support. You want to talk about 'celebrities' and 'superstars', look no further than my Twitter feed and that's exactly what you'll find."

The Premier League striker has been sharing kind offers of support on Twitter today.

Hundreds of businesses and organisations have pledged to help feed hungry kids after the government's callous refusal
The Manchester United star has lobbied the government to support kids in need

The Duke's Head in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, said staff were "appalled" the free school meal call had been rejected, writing in a post shared by Rashford: "You ate out to help out, now it's our turn to help out."

And Vutie Beets cafe in Hertfordshire tweeted: "If the government won’t look out for the children in our community when they need it most, then we will."

That sentiment was echoed by Riddle & Finns in Brighton, which said in an Instagram post: "It is an absolute crying travesty that in this apparent most civilised and wealthy of nations, we need this kind of intervention, but please - don't suffer in silence."

Pubs and cafes joined the outpouring of generosity across the country as the pandemic threatens to bring more hardship for struggling families this winter.

Marcus Rashford praised British heroes for stepping up to support hungry kids

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, no stranger to bruising encounters with the government, this morning said his team had joined forces with the Co-Op to provide 1,000 meal vouchers during half term.

Fast-food giant McDonald's announced today it would be offering one million meals to families in need over the next two weeks.

Furniture company ScS Sofas said it had donated 10,000 meals to feed children in Sunderland.

Rashford earlier wrote on Twitter: wrote: "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."