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Hungry at Christmas; Charity highlights plight of children.

A CHARITY has warned children in Tyneside will go hungry this Christmas if more is not done to tackle poverty in the region.

Action for Children released figures which revealed as many as 2,500 children in Newcastle do not know where their next meal is coming from and could go without over the festive holidays.

The figures reveal that over two-thirds of managers at their 500 children's projects nationwide say youngsters don't have regular meals.

In the North East, the charity supports 2,500 children and a further 15,000 across the region - and for the first time in years has been forced to hand out food and vouchers to stricken families.

Val Hobson, centre coordinator at Sure Start Cowgate and Blakelaw children's centre, said: "Christmas is meant to be a special time of year, but it can be incredibly stressful for families who simply can't afford expensive food and presents but want to give their children special memories."

Val added: "The cost of food keeps rising, and some local parents sometimes find it difficult to buy what they would like to feed their families. We don't typically give out things like food, formula, nappies and vouchers but have had to make exceptions recently for some families.

"Families are really struggling to make ends meet and, as the weather gets colder, energy costs in particular are a concern. We are aware that some parents get into debt just to pay their normal day-to-day bills."

Organisers from a food bank in Gateshead say they have been told there is a need for the service in the region.

Secretary of Beacon Lough Baptist Church, Ian Britton, is part of the Gateshead Foodbank.

He said: "When we open the food bank in the middle of November, we expect there to be a significant take-up.

"What we are hearing from professionals is that they are seeing a need for food banks to be launched because there is a need for them."

As well as providing emergency crisis support - such as food parcels, baby food and breakfasts - Action for Children services are working with families and young people to address the root causes of children going hungry. The charity offers courses for cooking on a budget as well as money management skills so families are better equipped for expensive times of the year such as Christmas.

Carol Iddon, director of children's services at Action for Children, said: "With the cost of food rising and so many Newcastle families already struggling to make ends meet, we are launching an appeal this Christmas to help vulnerable families across the north of England."

Action for Children is asking people to donate money to help support families across the UK.
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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Nov 7, 2012
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