For the first time, temporary canteens designed to feed malnourished children in dozens of towns in Portugal have remained open over the whole Christmas holidays.
As the economic crisis bites deep, a school nutrition programme has identified a sharp rise in the number of children – some 13,000 in total – showing signs of deficiency from not eating properly.
The local education authority in Gaia in northern Portugal said the number of students registered at local crisis canteens had gone up from nearly 3,000 last year to 4,000 this Christmas.
In Faro in the south authorities said registrations had doubled. A similar picture has emerged in parts of Lisbon.
One school principal says some children of newly unemployed parents are being given breakfast each day.
A parents organisation estimates that families once considered middle class are approaching the poverty line.
More austerity measures are expected to aggravate the problem.