More than a million children could go hungry in England this summer, according to Labour and charity bosses.
The party says those that are eligible for free school meals will miss out over the six-week holiday, and nearly four million more whose families are living in poverty may not be able to afford extra food costs.
New analysis from the Trussell Trust, which runs a 400-strong network of foodbanks across the country, shows an increase in the number of food parcels being given to families with children during the summer.
In response to a written question from shadow education secretary Angela Rayner, the government admitted it “has made no assessment of the number of children who are at risk of experiencing hunger during school summer holidays in 2017.”
Since the general election, the Tories have abandoned their manifesto plans to scrap free school lunches for poorer children and replace them with free breakfasts for all youngsters.
“It is a national disgrace that millions of children across the country are at risk of going hungry this summer,” Rayner said.
“The government has admitted it has no plans to assist children who are facing hunger during the school holidays.
“The Conservatives are failing in their duty of care to children in poverty, whose numbers are increasing to Dickensian levels under Tory austerity.
“With the IFS forecasting that child poverty will rise to 5 million by 2022, Labour is demanding that the government brings forward a new strategy to tackle child poverty.”
Samantha Stapley, operations manager for England at the Trussell Trust, said more than a third of all the food distributed in the charity’s network goes to children, but latest figures show primary school-aged youngsters are more likely than others to receive a foodbank’s help.
“This highlights just how close to crisis many families are living,” she told HuffPost UK.
“We can all make a difference - checking which food your local foodbank is running low on and donating to make sure emergency food is available when people are referred to help is a simple and effective way to get involved. You could be helping a family that lives on your street.
“As a nation we also must address the reasons why families with children are referred to foodbanks in the first place.
“We welcome the government’s decision to maintain free school lunches for children during term time – the next step must be to help families during the holidays.”
The charity said it was keen to share its new data and insight with the government to develop a long-term solution to stop more families reaching crisis point.
A government spokesperson said: “Employment remains the best route out of poverty. Record numbers of people are now in work and we’re helping millions of households meet the everyday cost of living and keep more of what they earn.
“We’ve doubled free childcare to help parents into work, and continue to spend over £90bn a year on support for those who need it, including those who are bringing up a family or on a low income.
“Budgeting advice and benefit advances are also available for anyone who needs more help.”