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  1. ITV Report

Three million children 'at hunger risk' during school holidays

Three million schoolchildren are at risk of going hungry this summer. Credit: PA

Up to three million children risk going hungry over the school holidays, with increasing numbers of families relying on food banks, MPs warn.

A new government report concluded that a million children who receive free school meals risk going without substantial nutrition over the summer.

A further two million children with working parents still in poverty could also be affected, the all-party parliamentary group (APPG) found.

Now the government is being urged to use £100,000 raised from tax on sugary drinks to help councils feed hungry children when school canteens are shut.

During the course of its findings, the APPG heard evidence of youngsters existing on a diet of crisps and some unable to take part in a football tournament because "their bodies simply gave up".

Some children are reliant on school lunches. Credit: PA

The AGGP has stressed that councils should work with schools, churches, community groups and businesses to tackle the growing problem.

It noted that an increased number of families relied on food banks during the school holidays and suggested there are "particular difficulties that arise at those times of the year which restrict families' abilities to afford food".

Senior Labour MP Frank Field, APPG chairman, said the government "has now had time to take on board the fact that under its stewardship of the fifth richest country in the world, too many children are stalked by hunger".

The group's report found a "deeply troubling" impact on children who had gone hungry over the holidays and returned to class "malnourished, sluggish and dreary".

Labour MP Frank Field chairs the APPG. Credit: PA

The report said: "There can be no escape from the reality that in 2017, children in different parts of England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland are arriving back at school hungry and totally unprepared to learn after the holidays.

"We have learnt of one young person who vomited during the holidays because their diet consisted exclusively of packets of crisps.

"Elsewhere, a group of children taking part in a holiday football tournament had to drop out of the latter stages of the competition, as they had not eaten a meal in the days leading up to the event. Their bodies simply gave up on them."

Mr Field described the evidence presented in the report as "staggering".

"It shows us that not only are there children in this country who are exposed to hunger when they are not at school, but also that this exposure risks damaging their prospects of gaining a good education and living a healthy life," he said.