Dame Emma Thompson has called on the Government to protect children struggling to get enough food during lockdown.

The Oscar-winning actress says ministers should provide emergency funds to help those who cannot afford supplies amid the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

Research by YouGov suggests as many as 2.4 million children live in food insecure households, and as many as 350,000 have had meals when they have not eaten enough since restrictions were introduced.

The poll, commissioned by charity the Food Foundation, also found that as many as two million children have been given smaller portions or cheaper, less nutritious meals because their parents have run out of supplies.

Dame Emma, an ambassador for their  Children’s Right2Food campaign said families “find themselves in an impossible position”.

She added: “What is undeniable is that our Government has yet to extend real lifelines to those who cannot afford food.

“We need emergency income support to put money in the pockets of families who are suffering and the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) must ensure child benefit payments are increased and sufficient for alleviating the hardship so many children are enduring.”

The charity are asking the DWP to scrap the five-week wait for Universal Credit and double child benefit by paying it fortnightly instead of monthly.

Anna Taylor, executive director of the Food Foundation, said ensuring children have enough food “should be a priority, but we’re leaving them behind in conversations about emergency support and they’re falling through the cracks as a result”.

She added: “Having enough nutritious food to eat is a basic right and without it children’s mental and physical health suffers irreparably.”

A Government spokesman said: “We are doing whatever it takes to ensure people are supported through these unprecedented times and we remain committed to providing opportunities and tackling the root causes of poverty.

“Widespread support is available, including increased Universal Credit payments, free school meals, contributory benefits, the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, Self-employment Income Support Scheme, statutory sick pay, mortgage holidays and greater protection for renters.

“We continue to encourage schools to work with their suppliers to arrange food parcels or collections for families eligible for free school meals. Where this is not possible, a national scheme was launched for schools to provide supermarket vouchers, which is delivering for thousands of schools.”