Shocking new figures just released confirm that one in five Irish children went to bed or to school hungry in 2010.
Experts fear the current figure could be higher as the financial crisis deepens in Ireland.
The Health Behaviour in School study, the first since 2006, shows that one in five children reported there was not enough food at home.
Asked in the survey how often they went to school or to bed hungry due to a lack of food at home, 21 per cent said they had. The new figure represents a four per cent increase on the 2006 poll.
The Irish Times reports that younger children and children from lower social class groups were ‘significantly more likely’ to have gone hungry than older children and those from other social class groups.
Figures for exercising four or more times a week have changed little with 51 per cent reporting they did so in 2010, compared with 53 per cent in 2006.
A quarter of those aged between 15 and 17 told the report they have had sex. Boys and those from lower social class groups were more likely to report having ever had sex.
Those having had sex reported that 93 per cent had used a condom the last time they had, while 59 per cent said they had used a birth control pill.
The Irish Times report says there was a decrease in reports of tobacco, alcohol and cannabis use among school children since the 2006 findings.
Smokers fell from 15 per cent six years ago to 12 per cent last year, while the proportion of children who said they had ever smoked declined from 36 per cent to 27 per cent.
The report says that the number of older girls who said they had ever smoked dropped from 57 per cent in 2006 to 47 per cent in 2010.
Alcohol consumption has also decreased in the latest figures with 46 per cent of children reporting ever drinking compared with 53 per cent in 2006.
Figures for current drinkers and reports of having been drunk in the last 30 days also fell. Children from lower social classes were more likely to report having been ‘really drunk’.
The report states that the number of children using cannabis in the past 12 months halved between 2006, when 16 per cent of children reported having done so, to 8 per cent in 2010.
The figures show that numbers of those who reported using cannabis in the past 30 days have also dropped from 7 per cent in 2006 to 5 per cent in 2010.
Health issues were also covered. A third of children surveyed said they were in excellent health, half said they felt ‘very happy’ and more than three-quarters had ‘high life satisfaction.
Younger children and boys are more likely to report positive health. Children from lower social class groups are less likely to report excellent health and high life satisfaction.
Minister for Health Dr James Reilly welcomed the report but said that much remained to be done.
“I am very concerned at the statistics around exercise and physical activity and the number of children who still remain hungry, either going to school or going to bed at night,” he said. A total of 16,060 children aged between nine and 18 from 256 schools across Ireland participated in the survey.