A third of parents skip meals – just so their children can eat

Three in 10 parents have skipped meals during the last year so their children can have something to eat.

A study of 900 mums and dads of primary school children found 54 per cent of these have gone without breakfast and half have missed lunch, while 47 per cent have even forgone an evening meal, and worryingly, 25 per cent admitted it is a regular occurrence.

But 82 per cent simply pretended they weren’t hungry, so their children wouldn’t know anything was amiss.

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The study also found 52 per cent of all parents have given themselves a smaller portion at mealtimes so their children have enough.

The research was commissioned by General Mills, which in partnership with the Greggs Foundation, funds 1.2 million breakfasts every year for school children through its breakfast club programme.

A spokesperson for the food manufacturer said: "These results show just how significant food insecurity is in the UK. Any parent who is lucky enough to be able to reach into the cupboard and find enough to feed their family might find this feeling hard to understand.

“What it does show is the lengths parents will go to in order to ensure their kids are fed, and also shield them from their economic reality.”

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The study revealed rising costs (51 per cent) is the main reason parents are depriving themselves of food, while 31 per cent have done so shortly before payday when funds were low.

And the same percentage did it after being caught out by an unexpected bill.

Everyone gets fed

As a result, one in 10 parents are ‘very worried’ about feeding their family over the next year, while 38 per cent are somewhat concerned. But this means 21 per cent don’t often invite their children’s friends round as they worry they can’t feed them.

While 16 per cent feel relief when their children are invited to a friend’s house, as it relieves the burden of feeding them for the evening.

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It also emerged 33 per cent of parents feel ashamed when they have to skip meals so their kids can eat, while 32 per cent feel embarrassed. However, 39 per cent simply feel sad, with 14 per cent angry at the situation they find themselves in.

The study, carried out via OnePoll.com, also found 16 per cent of parents have been to a food bank in the last 12 months to provide food for their family.

And 26 per cent are worried about having enough food to feed the whole family ahead of the coming school half-term holiday.

General Mills’ spokesperson added: “These figures paint a very worrying picture for parents in the UK, right now – just before the half-term holiday when their children won’t be at school getting free school meals or be able to attend breakfast club - and in the future.

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“Schemes to help parents feed their children are hugely welcomed, and food banks and school breakfast clubs are going to be vital in the coming months. As a society, we should look to destigmatise parents using these resources for help and reduce the shame or embarrassment people feel when they need them.”