SCHOOLS in Moray are facing an annual bill of over £11,000 because parents send their children to class without food.
Around 5,500 school meals were not paid for in the last full financial year, and in the first seven months of the current one, the figure has already hit 3,245, costing £6,490.
The issue applies mostly to primary schools and appears to be a particular problem in areas of Lossiemouth and Elgin.
Figures do not include pupils who occasionally forget to buy a ticket, but do include families eligible for free meals who do not take up the offer and those who do not bother providing a packed lunch for their children.
Moray Council leader Allan Wright said: “I find these figures quite staggering.
A council spokesman said: “Invoices are issued to the parents involved in an effort to recover the cost of unpaid meals."
Read the full story in 'The Northern Scot' print version - out tonight.
The Scottish Government plans to introduce free school meals to all pupils in primaries one, two and three in 2015 are expected to alleviate the problem but not solve it completely.