At St Jude’s, a small primary school of the Church of England in south London, the breakfast club is extremely busy. In the last six weeks, the number of students who came to eat porridge, scrambled eggs and fruit cocktails before the start of the school day has grown from eight to 22 – almost a quarter of the population of the Southwark school.

Families affected by the cost of living crisis are becoming increasingly desperate, says Acting Deputy Chief Matt Jones. They need help with debts; they cannot pay their bills. Employees are increasingly turning to StepChange, a charity borrowed organization, and the school has made discretionary payments to help families who can’t afford gas, electricity or diapers.

Budgets are small, Jones says, but the school is determined to defend quality school lunches for their children, whatever. “We take a stand,” he said. “For many of our children, the food they get at our school may be the only decent food they get every day. So we have to make sure that it will continue. “

As inflation splits the price of ingredients, vendors have told schools they are doing their best to absorb rising costs, but at some point the increase will have to be passed on. Without additional funding from government schools, you may have to choose smaller portions or cheaper ingredients.

The rapid increase in costs is shocking. One Liverpool school catering manager said 5kg of long grain rice rose from £ 6.49 in April to £ 8.30 in May, 5kg of fresh chicken fillet went up from £ 19.96 to £ 28.53. , and 1.7 kg of canned tuna in brine rose from 6.99 pounds to 8.07 pounds.

Some schools are considering raising the cost of school lunches next semester for those who pay, but they are reluctant to increase the burden on families who are already in a cost of living crisis.

Helen Stout is the principal of Meadfield Primary School in Halton Moore, Leeds, where many parents are already struggling to feed their children. The school serves a disadvantaged community where some families are held back by generations of the unemployed.

More than 60% of its students are entitled to free school meals, and the school provides all children with breakfast every day – “bread and spread” to make sure that the stomach is not completely empty at the beginning of the day. However, there are alarming signs of hunger, Stout says. “Staff members say children eat food in the morning.”

Meadowfield continues to provide food parcels for the most needy families – a legacy blockade – through a charity called Rethink Food that intercepts food that has just expired and is destined for landfill. “It’s all great to eat. It comes to us and we collect it in a bag, “said Stout. The staff also directs parents to the charity Zarach for such basic things as bedding, beds and mattresses.

The school has already decided – reluctantly – to stop funding milk for its 200 key 2nd degree children late next week. “The price has become astronomical,” Stout said, “but [the decision] sitting with me restlessly ”.

She is horrified to believe that children may be given smaller school lunches made from cheaper ingredients due to rising costs. “For some of my students, we know it’s the only hot meal of the day. I hoped the school lunches would be holy. We can’t raise them when they are hungry. “

In Meadowfield, as in many schools, there are other signs that families are struggling – in personal hygiene and the appearance of children. The children come without socks, and the others are dressed in old school uniforms, which were handed over not once, but through a couple of siblings.

Dr Paul Gosling, director of Exeter Road Primary School in Devon and president of the National Association of Leaders (NAHT), said his school is struggling to absorb the effects of rising food prices to protect families.

“We have refused to increase the cost of food for paying families because it will put another pressure on them. At the moment, the school is absorbing the increased cost, but it is not sustainable.

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