Others are left feeling sad, embarrassed, and even angry, as half of mums and dads blame rising costs for struggling to feed their whole family
One in three parents have been left feeling ashamed (33%) or embarrassed (32%), as they find themselves skipping meals – to make sure there is enough food for their children to eat.
A quarter even admit they do so regularly, with breakfast the most commonly sacrificed meal, for 54% of mums and dads with kids at primary school.
Meanwhile, half have missed lunch, and 47% have skipped an evening meal – while 52% have served themselves smaller portions at mealtimes, to make sure their little ones get enough.
The poll of 900 parents, with children in this age range, found that half (51%) claim the most common reason they go without food is due to rising costs. And this leaves 39% feeling sad about their situation, while 14% feel angry.
However, 82% have simply pretended they weren’t hungry, so their youngsters wouldn’t suspect anything was amiss.
The study was commissioned by General Mills, which, in partnership with the Greggs Foundation, funds 1.2 million breakfasts every year for school children, through its breakfast club programme.
A spokesman for the food manufacturer said: “These results show just how significant food insecurity is in the UK. Any parent who is lucky enough to be able to reach into the cupboard and find enough to feed their family, might find this feeling hard to understand.
“What it does show is the lengths parents will go to in order to ensure their kids are fed, and also shield them from their economic reality.”
The study revealed that 31% have deprived themselves of food shortly before payday, when funds were low – while the same percentage did so after being caught out by an unexpected bill.
And with three in ten having skipped a meal in the last year to look after their children, it emerged that one in 10 parents are “very worried” about feeding their family over the next year, while 38% are somewhat concerned.
This also means that one in five (21%) don’t often invite their children’s friends round, as they worry they can’t feed them. And 16% feel relief when their children are invited to a friend’s house, as it relieves the burden of feeding them for the evening.
The study, carried out via OnePoll.com, also found 16% of parents have been to a food bank in the last 12 months to provide food for their family. And 26% are worried about having enough food to feed the whole family, ahead of the upcoming school half-term holiday.
General Mills’ spokesman added: “These figures paint a very worrying picture for parents in the UK, both right now – just before the half-term holiday, when their children won’t be at school getting free school meals or be able to attend breakfast club – and in the future.
“Schemes to help parents feed their children are hugely welcomed, and food banks and school breakfast clubs are going to be vital in the coming months.
“As a society, we should look to destigmatise parents using these resources for help, and reduce the shame or embarrassment people feel when they need them.”