The number of struggling families sending their children to school without breakfast has increased over the last year, a new poll suggests.
A survey by Kelloggs reveals that 38% of primary and secondary school teachers are seeing children arriving at school hungry every day.
And 21% said the number of kids who arrive at school hungry has increased over the last year, while only 2% said the number had decreased.
Of the 21% who said the situation was worsening, around 69% blamed the global economic downturn, while a shocking 56% put the increase down to benefit cuts.
48% said parents were struggling to find full-time work that paid enough to give their children breakfast.
However, 38% of teachers said long working long hours for some parent meant breakfast was no longer seen as an important meal.
Almost a third of the 873 teachers surveyed by YouGov, on behalf of Kelloggs, said they has witnessed a child fall asleep a class, blaming tiredness or fatigue caused by hunger or thirst.
The survey reveals that hunger is having a detrimental effect on the ability for children to learn. 75% of teachers said hunger was making children lethargic, while 62% said it left them unable to learn.
Almost 48% said hungry kids were more disruptive in class and 83% said children couldn’t concentrate in class. Only 1% said skipping breakfast made children better behaved in school, says Kelloggs.
Jill Rutter, head of research and policy at the Family and Childcare Trust, said: “In one of the world’s richest nations it is disgraceful that nearly 40 per cent of teachers report having children arriving hungry at school every day.
“Missing breakfast has huge impact on children’s ability to concentrate, learn and behave, which affects their results and long-term outcomes.
“Governments in all parts of the UK now recognise that breakfast is essential, but there are too many children who still miss out.
“We are concerned that a third of teachers have felt compelled to bring in food for children who haven’t had breakfast.
“The Family and Childcare Trust encourages schools to take up the opportunities offered by Kellogg’s and set up a breakfast club. Such a small investment can make a real difference for our children, today and in the future.”
Kelloggs said they are increasing efforts to provide breakfast clubs to low-income families in deprived areas.
Paul Wheeler, a Kellogg’s spokesperson, said: “It’s a crying shame that so many children are going to school without having eaten a basic breakfast.
“When your stomach’s rumbling it’s hard to concentrate on anything else, so it’s no small wonder we’re hearing about children becoming badly behaved and unwilling to learn when they’re hungry.
“That’s why over the past 16 years, Kellogg’s has set up more than 1,000 new breakfast clubs in some of the country’s most deprived areas.”
According to Kelloggs, around 85% of schools now have a breakfast club, with 54% saying the primary reason for setting one up is because of kids going to school hungry.