Children are regularly not getting enough food to eat, according to a new study, with negative repercussions for primary and secondary teachers' efforts to educate them.
The Children's Food Trust surveyed over 250 people who work with children, including those in teaching jobs, youth workers, childminders and family intervention workers.
Its poll revealed that 85 per cent of these professionals believed they were working with children who were not getting enough to eat, with 33 per cent claiming this to be an everyday occurrence.
Not only did 64 per cent say this negatively affected the health of the children they worked with, but 77 said it was impacting children's ability to concentrate and learn and 76 per cent thought these pupils would be doing better at school if they were getting more to eat.
Furthermore, 42 per cent of professionals reporting having given a child food at some point in the last two years because they were concerned they were not getting enough to eat, while 24 per cent had given a child money to buy food.
Also, 47 per cent of those respondents who worked in schools said they had noticed changes in the contents of pupils' lunchboxes as household budgets have tightened.
"Less good quality food", "more cheap junk food, "more chocolate and crisps", "less bread and sandwiches" and "less fruit" were among the issues school staff had noticed.
Linda Cregan, the Children's Food Trust chief executive-designate, commented: "Of course it's a parent's responsibility to make sure their child eats well.
"But as this and other surveys have shown, the reality is that this can be an enormous struggle."
When asked what could be done to improve the situation, respondents suggested free breakfasts or other free food for children in school, support for free meals for children during the school holidays and better school meals.
Cooking education for children and parents, donations of free fruit and vegetables, or at least making them available more cheaply and help for families to prioritise money for food were also mentioned.
These recommendations echo the findings of a report by the Children's Society, published back in December, which revealed that 98 per cent of teachers felt all children living in poverty should be eligible for free school meals.
Posted by Theo Foulds