school dinners
© Alamy
Since lockdown many children have been missing out on school dinners.
Almost 2,500 children have been admitted to hospital with malnutrition in the first six months of the year - double the number over the same period last year - prompting fresh concern that families are struggling to afford to feed themselves and that the pandemic has intensified the problem.

Freedom of information responses from almost 50 trusts in England, representing 150 hospitals, show that more than 11,500 children have been admitted to hospital with malnutrition since 2015.

Almost 1,000 under-16s with malnutrition were admitted as inpatients to Cambridge University hospitals NHS foundation trust alone, suggesting the affluent city has wide disparities in wealth.

Liberal Democrat leadership campaigner Layla Moran MP, who collated the responses, said: "These figures shocked me and make me angry that in Britain, in 2020, people can be hospitalised due to malnutrition. We need to move forward and create a system of social security that helps everyone and makes sure no one goes hungry in our country.

"It is still widely believed malnutrition is a problem restricted to the developing world," she added. "Sadly, this is not true. Today, in the UK, thousands of friends, relatives, neighbours and colleagues are at risk of the effects of malnutrition."

Collectively the figures reveal 11,515 cases of hospital admissions of under-16s due to malnourishment. Fewer than two-thirds of all trusts responded, suggesting the real total figure is much higher.

Comment: And these are only the cases that are of such severity that they required hospitalization.

The most cases were reported by Cambridge University hospitals trust, which logged 915 admissions, followed by University hospital Southampton NHS trust with 704. Newcastle upon Tyne hospitals NHS foundation trust and Royal Free London NHS foundation trust both had 656.

The dramatic increase this year is unsurprising. The number of households with children going hungry doubled during lockdown, as millions of people struggle to afford food.

Data from the Food Foundation revealed in May that almost a fifth of households with children had been unable to access enough food in the preceding weeks, with children not getting enough to eat as already vulnerable families battled isolation and loss of income.

An Environmental Audit Committee report last year recommended the government appoint a minister with responsibility for tackling hunger and food insecurity in the UK, a position it has yet to announce.