One In Seven School Pupils 'Goes Without Lunch', Study Suggests
One in seven youngsters go without lunch on a typical day, research suggests.
Teenage girls aged 14 and 15 are among the worst offenders, with nearly one in five admitting they did not have any lunch.
The study also suggests that rising numbers of pupils are skipping lunch.
The findings come from a report by the Schools Health Education Unit (SHEU) which questioned more than 83,000 10- to 15-year-olds in 2010 on a variety of topics, including what they eat for lunch and breakfast.
In total, 13.5% of boys and girls in Years 8 and 10 (aged 12-13 and 14-15) said they did not eat lunch when asked the question, "What did you do for lunch yesterday".
This ranged from 10% among Year 8 boys to 18% among Year 10 girls, the findings show.
The SHEU suggested that the numbers not eating at lunchtime has more than doubled over the past 25 years.
In 1986 around 5% of the youngsters questioned said they did not have anything for lunch. Among Year 10 girls, this figure was 10% in 1986.
The Unit's findings show that the most popular lunch option is school dinners, chosen by more than half (52.5%) of those surveyed.
Packed lunch was the next most popular, chosen by 25.8%, while more young people said they go to a takeaway than go home for lunch (5.3% compared to 3%).
Asked what they had eaten for breakfast that morning, almost one in five (19.8%) said they had skipped the first meal of the day. This ranged from just 12% among Year 6 boys and girls (aged 10-11) to 31% of Year 10 girls revealing they had not eaten that morning.
School Food Trust spokesman Claire Rick said skipping lunch has an impact on how pupils perform in lessons.
She said: "Skipping lunch doesn't just leave pupils feeling hungry and tired - it really does affect their performance in the classroom.
"Our research shows that children are far more able to concentrate and focus with their teachers after a healthy meal at lunchtime, and we hear from schools all the time about the impact of better food for children's behaviour at school.
"That's why it's so important that the school dining room is a place where pupils want to spend their lunchtimes, and that we continue working on all of the factors that will encourage more pupils to opt for a healthy school lunch."