PARENTS in Birkenhead are going without food in order to feed their children in school holidays.

Going hungry when classrooms are closed is a growing problem for up to three million UK children, MPs and peers say.

A new report from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Hunger - led by Birkenhead MP Frank Field - warns too many children have to survive on crisps and sugary drinks when school kitchens are closed.

One group had to drop out of a summer football scheme because they had not eaten a meal in days, its report says.

An increased number of families relied on food banks during the holidays, and the report said there are "particular difficulties that arise at those times of the year which restrict families’ abilities to afford food".

The review quotes a a school governor from Birkenhead who told the inquiry: "Parents are going without food in order to feed their children and this in itself becomes a health concern as a parent who has malnutrition due to going without to feed a child is at risk."

Such sacrifices, according to the governor, occasionally extend beyond children’s parents to the "many grandparents who step into the breach when able."

"They do what they can to support and do so with incredible tact and diplomacy," said the governor.

"Grandparents are also finding themselves with tremendous burdens or financial strain and worry and this again has the potential to impact on health resources."

According to the report children at risk of holiday hunger include an estimated:

One million growing up in poverty who receive free school meals during term time

Two million whose parents are on low wages but do not qualify for free school meal

Evidence during the two-month long inquiry to the group, included children reported to have vomited from lack of food while others were being fed flavoured water or cereal as their parents could not afford proper meals for them.

Referring to the group which had to drop out of playing football, the report says: "Their bodies simply gave up on them." 

The all-party group urges the government to set aside 10% of the tax on sugary drinks, due to start next year to allocate £100,000 to every council to fund schemes to ensure that children are properly fed during the school holidays.

It claims the cost of providing free meals and activities during holidays can be £1.50 per child per day.

Mr Field said: "The evidence presented in this report is staggering.

"It shows us that not only are there children in this country who are exposed to hunger when they are not at school, but also that this exposure risks damaging their prospects of gaining a good education and living a healthy life.

"People of goodwill in a number of communities are showing how holiday hunger can be overcome.

"They are transforming children’s and parents’ lives for the better."

He continued: "It is from this collective strength of churches, community groups, businesses, schools and public bodies that a national effort to eliminate holiday hunger can, and must, be initiated.

"Abolishing hunger during school holidays is beyond the ability of individual community groups and volunteers alone.

"It needs above all a Government lead in giving local authorities duties to convene churches, community groups, businesses, schools and public bodies in their area; and allocating a top slice of the sugary drinks levy to fund each local authority with a £100,000 grant to abolish school holiday hunger."