CHILDREN are being sent to school with ketchup sandwiches in their lunch boxes, a leading Irish charity has confirmed
The Herald has learned that teachers in some schools have also seen a rise in students stealing food from their peers due to hunger.
St Vincent de Paul last night said it was "heartbreaking" to see some of the packed lunches being brought to school by young children.
The charity was responding to claims made in a BBC programme that children have attended school with ketchup sandwiches in their lunchboxes.
Speaking to the Herald, St Vincent de Paul's Jim Walsh confirmed that such a scenario has been brought to the charity's attention.
"It's a heartbreaking situation but it is occurring in a small number of cases," he said.
"It comes down to choices at the end of the day and people are really struggling under financial demands.
"The psychological effect that this is having on people is something our volunteers are telling us regularly," he added.
Mr Walsh said his staff will be particularly busy assisting needy families in the run up to Christmas.
He said St Vincent de Paul has staff and volunteers who have specific expertise in the area of nourishment and healthy eating.
Brendan Dempsey, who represents the charity in Cork, said he is aware of situations whereby students have stolen food from their peers. "This has happened in a very small number of cases but it has caused upset in schools," he said.
The National Parents Council last night said it was concerned about the number of students who are going to school without having consumed a breakfast.
"While many schools have breakfast and lunchtime clubs, they aren't present in them all and it's a terrible situation whereby a child is going to school without having eaten something. This is why breakfast clubs are so important."