By Tristan Harris Wednesday 13 March 2013 Updated: 14/03 13:37
SHOCKING statistics released by The Children's Society show that 300 children across Bromsgrove district who are living in poverty are not getting the free school meals they are entitled to.
And the charity calculates that equates to a fifth of pupils who should be getting the lunches not receiving them.
Now, through its Fair and Square campaign, the charity is calling on the Government to make free school meals available to all children in poverty and is urging residents to contact their MP about the issue.
The Children's Society is particularly concerned as a free school lunch may be the only proper meal some youngsters have in a day.
Matthew Reed, the charity's chief executive, said it was shocking huge numbers of children in poverty were missing out on free school meals.
"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," he added.
According to Worcestershire County Council, of the 14,893 school pupils across Bromsgrove district, 1,160 children, some 7.8 per cent, have free meals.
In the Mid-Worcestershire constituency, which covers Droitwich, the Children's Society estimates there are 900 children living in poverty who are not claiming free school meals, some 43 per cent.
Worcestershire County Council states of the 4,468 school pupils across Wychavon district, 1,569 children, some 10.8 per cent, have free meals
Applications for free school meals can be made on paper or online by providing several details, including the applicant's surname, date of birth and National Insurance number into the Department of Works and Pension checker.
That will determine if the child is eligible for free school meals and does not inform the Local Authority which benefits the applicant is in receipt of.
Those entitled to free school meals will be notified, as will the school attended by the applicant's child. Eligibility is rechecked on an annual basis.
For more on school meals in Worcestershire, or how to apply, visit www.worcestershire.gov.uk/cms/school-information/school-free-meals.aspx
Those wanting more on The Children's Society's Fair and Square campaign, visit www.childrenssociety.org.uk/fairandsquare
There, residents can also add their names to the petition, which already has over 90,000 signatures.
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