Poor pupils food shock

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A quarter of children who are officially classed as living in poverty in Chorley do not receive free school dinners.

The Children’s Society says more than half of the 2.2 million schoolchildren nationally living in poverty in England miss out on a free school lunch.

Of these, 700,000 are not even entitled to one – often because their parents work, regardless of how little they earn, the charity said. In Chorley there are 600 pupils missing out on dinner, 26 per cent of children in poverty.

Chorley MP Lindsay Hoyle said: “It is shocking that there are so many children on this poverty line.

“Along with the schools, we have to make sure that parents are aware that kids are entitled to the meals.

“Also, we should try to remove the stigma associated with the kids having free meals. It is all about giving the children a balanced meal and we should be doing all we can to ensure that kids receive it if they are entitled to it.”

The Children’s Society is calling on the Government to make free school meals available to all children in poverty.

For some children, a free school lunch may be the only proper meal they get, the charity said.

Nearly half of teachers surveyed by the Children’s Society said they often saw children going hungry in school.

Free school meals are offered to children of families who get Income Support or Job Seekers’ Allowance, families who earn less than £16,190, or work less than 16 hours per week.

For parents in poverty, finding the £370 a year needed for each child’s school meal often means struggling to provide their children with the basics, including buying them shoes for school and heating the home, according to the charity.

The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) is calling for families with total incomes – including benefits – below £16,190 to be classified as eligible for free school meals.

Brian Lightman, ASCL general secretary, said: “The ineligibility of low-income families for free school meal (FSM) classification due to receipt of working tax credits is unsupportable.

“Low-income families who work must receive equal treatment to those who do not.”