The country’s biggest network of food banks has appealed for donations to deal with an expected increase in demand for emergency supplies for pupils suffering holiday hunger this summer.
The Trussell Trust said that in the summer holiday last year its 420 food banks provided more than 204,000 three-day emergency food packs, each containing enough food for three meals a day for three days. Some 74,000 of these went to children, 3,500 more than in May and June.
The charity said more than a third of food distributed by its network throughout the year goes to children, but there is extra financial pressure to provide main meals during the school holidays for families who rely on free school meals.
The news is only the latest worrying sign of pupils going hungry. This morning Tes revealed PE teachers’ concerns about pupils who are so malnourished and ashamed of their “skinny” bodies that they are reluctant to get changed for games.
Last summer more food was distributed by the Trussell Trust than was donated, prompting the charity to ask the public to help out this year.
Samantha Stapley, director of operations at the trust, said: "Food banks cannot, and must not, be a long-term solution to hunger at any time of year.
"No-one should face going hungry and, although our network will be doing all they can this summer to help families struggling to make the money they have stretch to cover the essentials, no charity can replace people having enough money for the basics.
"There are changes we can make as a nation to help during the holidays, but if we are to protect each other from hunger whatever the time of year, we have to go further than that.
"We know particular groups of people are most likely to need a food bank, so let's make sure no one is swept into destitution.
"Our benefits system can, and must, act as an anchor to protect people from being pulled into poverty."
A government spokesman said: "We are committed to supporting families to improve their lives, and employment remains the best route to achieve that.
"We recently announced a £2 million fund for organisations to support disadvantaged families during the school holidays, which can include providing healthy meals.
"Meanwhile, we have a record employment rate, household incomes have never been higher and there are 300,000 fewer children living in absolute poverty than in 2010.
"Our welfare reforms offer parents tailored support to move into work, ensuring that even more families can enjoy the opportunities and benefits that work can bring."
Margaret Greenwood, shadow work and pensions secretary, said: "It is a scandal that this summer, thousands of families are having to rely on food banks to stave off hunger.
"Child poverty in the UK shows no sign of slow-down; over 4 million children are growing up in poverty and that number is set to rise sharply over this Parliament as a direct result of government policies.
"The government needs to take stock of the impact that its social security policies are having on the health and wellbeing of children."