THE Children’s Society is warning that 1.2 million children living below the poverty line in England miss out on a school meal each day.
Some students turning up to school hungry have been seen trying to steal food says the society.
The warning follows on from the Child Poverty Action Group’s revelation that 3.6 million children are living in poverty in the UK.
The Children’s Society revealed that a teacher found two girls sharing a packed lunch in the school toilets because one had no money for food.
A study published by the charity and conducted with the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) and the National Union of Teachers, found that two-thirds of school staff said teachers are providing food or money for pupils’ meals.
Earlier this year, the ATL raised concerns about the size of school meals, suggesting young children are being served ‘very small’ school dinners and given limited choice despite paying more for their food.
‘Something is going badly wrong when teachers themselves are having to feed children,’ the charity’s chief executive Matthew Reed said.
The Children’s Society has launched a campaign Fair and Square: Free school meals for all children in poverty.
It says: ‘Our Fair and Square campaign aims to ensure that all children in need of a free school meal receive one.
‘Free school meals are a crucial entitlement for families living in poverty. These meals help to ensure that children from the lowest income families receive warm, nutritious food in the middle of the day.
‘More than half of all school-age children living in poverty aren’t getting free school meals. These 1.2 million children may not be eating a single nutritious meal all day.’
Referring to its survey, The Children’s Society says: ‘Teachers told us that they see children coming into school hungry and some are witnessing first-hand the effects of poverty on children.
‘Nearly three-quarters (72 per cent) of teachers surveyed have experienced pupils coming into school with no lunch and no means to pay for one.
‘Two-thirds (66 per cent) of the teachers surveyed stated that staff provide pupils with food or money if they come into school hungry.
‘We also found that 98 per cent of teachers support our Fair and Square campaign call for all children in poverty, including those in working families, to be able to receive a free school meal.’
The Child Poverty Action Group warned that this sort of chain of events is being highlighted due to children and families facing increasing hardship as a result of the coalition government’s austerity agenda.
Listing ‘facts and figures of child poverty’, the CPAG says: ‘There are 3.6 million children living in poverty in the UK today. That’s 27 per cent of children, or more than one in four.
‘There are even more serious concentrations of child poverty at a local level: in 100 local wards, for example, between 50 and 70 per cent of children are growing up in poverty.
‘Work does not provide a guaranteed route out of poverty in the UK. Almost two-thirds (62 per cent) of children growing up in poverty live in a household where at least one member works.
‘People are poor for many reasons. But explanations which put poverty down to drug and alcohol dependency, family breakdown, poor parenting, or a culture of worklessness are not supported by the facts.’