Two children in every school class are going hungry because their parents fail to provide proper meals, according to new research.
An estimated one million children in the UK now live in homes without enough to eat, according to the study by the parenting website Netmums and the child welfare charity Kids Company.
The charity has reported a rise of 233 per cent in the last 12 months in children using its services for their only meal of the day. Those children have an average age of just 10.
Camila Batmanghelidjh, the founder of Kids Company, said: "We are seeing a lot more children struggling to get hold of food. We have kids who were so starving they stole frozen meat from a flat they visited and they ate it raw. We're seeing effectively responsible parents who are just not managing to have food in the house.
"Children don't have a public voice so they can't tell us. We have a collective responsibility to make sure every child has enough to eat.
This is something as a society we can solve if we want to and change children's future for the better."
Almost a quarter of parents (24 per cent) reported knowing of children in their local area who do not have enough to eat. Just under a third (29 per cent) said they had seen an increase in children going hungry over the last two years.
The problem is most severe in inner cities but children all around the UK are struggling to get enough to eat because of chaotic parenting and chronic neglect. Three in five (62 per cent) parents know local families where children are going hungry because their parents cannot afford to buy all the food they need, while more than half (56 per cent) are aware of parents whose abuse of drugs or alcohol means they are not feeding their children.
In some areas 88 per cent of head teachers surveyed said poor nutrition was having a damaging impact in their school. One in four inner city schools said three-quarters of all pupils were affected by lack of food.
The study also found that children from homes that were short of food were now missing almost half their weekly meals.
On average, children from such homes eat just 10 meals a week – rather than the 21 meals a week that they need to stay healthy.
The Netmums survey questioned 1,116 people between June 18 and 22.