New figures reveal one in five children in Leeds and Wakefield regularly go hungry as the recession drives thousands of Yorkshire families in to poverty.
A report from charity Save the Children reveals 32 per cent – around 300,000 – of children in the region are now living in poverty, regularly missing hot meals or having parents forfeit their food to feed them.
The “It Shouldn’t Happen Here” study shows 21 per cent of children in Leeds and 20 per cent in Wakefield are classed as being in poverty.
Save the Children’s chief executive Justin Forsyth said: “No child should start the new term without a warm coat and with holes in their shoes.
“Poverty is tearing families apart, with parents buckling under the pressure of mounting bills and children seeing their parents argue more about money. That’s why for the first time in our history we are launching a UK appeal.
“We need to help poor families survive the recession.”
The charity is calling for the Government to encourage more employers to pay the living wage, so parents can earn enough to lift their children out of poverty, to strengthen the new welfare system – Universal Credit – by allowing working parents to keep more of their earnings before benefits are withdrawn and to provide working parents with 80 per cent of child care costs.
Save the Children spoke to more than 1,500 children and 5,000 parents in its report.
The charity is aiming to raise £500,000 to help its work in the UK, targeting the poorest children – the first time it has appealed to the UK public for funds to help children at home.
Leeds East Labour MP George Mudie said: “The Tories are departing from the policies Labour was successful with.
“They are embarking on old fashioned right wing Conservative policies – poverty is the natural outcome.”
A Government spokeswoman said: “Despite £150bn being poured into benefits and tax credits over the last decade, the previous Government’s approach to tackling child poverty has failed.
“The Government remains committed to eradicating child poverty, but we want to take a new approach by tackling the root causes including worklessness, educational failure and family breakdown.”