Thousands of parents across the region are sending their children to school without the money for their school lunch.
It has led to such a backlog in payments, that councils are being forced to cut back their education budgets to make up the shortfall.
An ITV Tyne Tees Freedom of Information request revealed parents owe nearly £200,000 to the region's schools and the number is rising year on year.
Watch our education correspondent Dan Ashby's report here:
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NFU Mutual has found the cost of rural crime in our region rose by a fifth last year, despite a decrease nationally.
The victim was walking her dog last month in an area known to locals as 'Black Bobby's Field'.