STRUGGLING Canberra families are sending their children to school without lunches because they can't afford to buy food, prompting charity group Anglicare to make a public plea for donations of snacks for youngsters' lunch boxes.
The charity is about half-way through its annual Winter Pantry Appeal and it is reporting a ''desperate shortage'' of food that can be packed and taken to school.
Food is distributed through relief centres around Canberra to needy families, but it tended to arrive in a tinned form and could not easily be put into lunch boxes.
''With cold winter weather already biting and rising electricity bills, it is becoming difficult for some families to even feed their children,'' Anglicare ACT regional manager Jenny Kitchin said.
James Ceraolo, who co-ordinates a homelessness program called Our Place, organised by Anglicare and Barnados, said he was well acquainted with the problem.
''We provide accommodation for young people who want to continue education, and because they are in education and not working they receive Centrelink payments,'' he said.
''Once they have paid their rent and their school fees, there is little left for food.
''So Anglicare and Barnados have both emergency food supplies and this pantry does a lot to keep kids eating good healthy food during winter.
''Unless young people ask us for food to take to school, often they will just go without.''
Ms Kitchin said there was also a shortage of toiletries, including toothpaste, soap and feminine hygiene products, which were needed for distribution.
To make a contribution to the Anglicare Winter Pantry Appeal, donation points have been set up at the Tuggeranong Hyperdome until June 10 and one will open at Westfield Belconnen tomorrow, and operate until June 17.