There are 6,000 children living in poverty in Leeds who are missing out on a free school meal according to campaigners who are calling for a shake-up of the system nationally.
A new report by the Children’s Society warns that in some parts of the city more than a third of poor children are not getting free school meals because they either do not take them or are not entitled to them.
It estimates there are around 6,000 children like this across Leeds and more than 60,000 in Yorkshire.
Nationally, the charity claims that more than half of the 2.2 million children living in poverty are missing out – with around 700,000 not being eligible.
It is calling on the Government to change the rules to ensure more young people from low income homes are entitled to a free school meal.
Today it has produced figures estimating how many children are not getting a free school meal broken down by parliamentary constituencies.
This has been worked out by comparing the numbers registered with an overall estimate of children in poverty in each area.
The figures show that 2,100 children in poverty in Leeds East are not receiving a free school meals – 35 per cent of poor young people in that constituency.
In Leeds Central the report says 30 per cent of poor pupils miss out, while in Leeds West it is 28 per cent and in Leeds North East the figure is 16 per cent.
The Children’s Society’s Fair and Square campaign is calling on the Government to make free school meals available to all children in poverty.
Matthew Reed, the charity’s chief executive, said: “It is shocking that huge numbers of children in poverty in Yorkshire are missing out on a free school meal.
“Every child in poverty should be entitled to this vital support.
“We know from the families we work with up and down the country that parents are struggling to make ends meet.
“Right now, the Government is reconsidering which children will be entitled to get free school meals. We urge the Government to take this opportunity to make sure all children in poverty can get a free school meal.”
Currently, children in England are eligible for free school meals if their parents receive a benefit payment – such as income support or job seekers’ allowance – or receive Child Tax Credit and have an annual income of no more than £16,190.
However, campaigners are calling for free school meals to be extended to all children who fall into a different nationally defined poverty measure - having a family income less than 60 per cent of average wages.
The Government has warned the proposals would cost £1bn a year.