A leading children's charity has been joined by teaching unions to call for free school meals, after nearly half of people working in UK teaching jobs claimed that they see hungry children coming into school each morning.
The report, by the Children's Society, suggests alarming evidence of child poverty and hunger in UK schools, with 72 per cent of teachers reporting that they see cases of children coming into school with no packed lunch and no money to pay for a school-provided meal.
Entitled 'Food for Thought', the survey sought to identify teachers' views on school meals - with two-thirds of respondents stating that staff at their schools have provided students with food or money to make sure they do not go hungry.
The report will alarm the government, coming as it does just a short while after it announced new plans for Universal Credit, which will overhaul the welfare system and could see the way that free school meals are provisioned readdressed.
It is estimated that more than half of the 2.2 million school children living in poverty in England miss out on free school meals, with 700,000 of these youngsters not even eligible, as a result of the fact that their parents work.
A further 500,000 are reluctant to accept free school meals because of hurdles such as stigma, teasing and bullying. Among teachers, there is an overwhelming sense that children living in poverty - even if their parents work - should receive free school meals, a sentiment with which 98 per cent agree.
Matthew Reed, Chief Executive of The Children’s Society, said: "This report sets out shocking evidence of just how much hardship teachers up and down the country are witnessing in classrooms day in, day out. Something is going badly wrong when teachers themselves are having to feed children.
"Every child in poverty should be given a free school meal. Free school meals are key to moving children out of poverty and vital to helping them flourish."
Posted by Tim Colman