Around a million children across the UK don't know where their next meal is coming from, according to figures released today.
Kids Company, a charity which helps disadvantaged children, estimates that two children in every school classroom suffer from "food insecurity," as they are living in homes without enough food to eat.
A survey for the charity by parenting website Netmums found that one in four parents (24%) knew of a child in their local area who did not have enough to eat.
Just under a third of parents questioned (29%) said they had seen a rise in the number of children going hungry over the past two years.
The survey of 1,116 parents also found that 62 per cent knew local families where children go hungry as their parents cannot afford to buy all the food they need. More than half (56%) said they were aware of parents not feeding their children because they were abusing drugs or alcohol.
Over the past 12 months, the charity reported a 233 per cent rise in the number of children using its services.
The average age of the 17,000 children going to its centre is ten years old, and many bring younger siblings and even babies.
The charity is now urging people to donate any old mobile phones to its "Mobiles for Meals" appeal to help feed hungry children in the UK.
Just one phone can provide a month's worth of meals for a child helped by Kids Company. Unwanted handsets can be dropped off at any Orange and T Mobile shop from today (July 5).
Kids Company is aiming to raise at least £1m to feed hungry and vulnerable children and to help open more centres around the UK.
Camila Batmanghelidjh, Kids Company founder said: "We are seeing a lot more children struggling to get hold of food. We have kids who were so starving they stole frozen meat from a flat they visited and they ate it raw. We’re seeing effectively responsible parents who are just not managing to have food in the house.
"Children don’t have a public voice so they can’t tell us. We have a collective responsibility to make sure every child has enough to eat. This is something as a society we can solve if we want to and change children’s future for the better."
Netmums founder Siobhan Freegard said: "Too many children are not on the breadline, they are way, way under it. It's horrifying to realise how many kids are suffering around the UK. They are having their chances ruined before their lives have barely begun.
"We're not asking for cash, we only need old mobiles that you won't use again. Almost everyone has one hidden away. It may be old junk to you but it’s a lifeline for the country's most vulnerable kids."