THERE were two dinner ticket queues at my primary school. You had a blue or a red ticket, depending on which queue you were put in. One was the “free dinners queue”.

It seems cruel now, almost Dickensian, to segregate children with such inequity, but I’d imagine it was simply a way of organising the register of children “staying for dinner”.

You could tell who was on “free dinners” because of the colour of their ticket, but it didn’t seem a big deal back then. I doubt it scarred anyone for life.We all got the same square of cheese flan and scoop of mashed potato in the end.

It was a system put into practice largely by efficient, capable, no nonsense women - teachers, school cooks and the marvellous dinner ladies who supervised our mealtimes, and whose names I still remember.

That firm but fair efficiency is pretty much how school meals have been organised and served up since they were pioneered, here in Bradford. This week the T&A featured some remarkable photographs of school meals in the city in 1908; in one picture a team of women are slicing huge mounds of bread, to deliver to local schools.

The campaign for school meals was led by another no-nonsense woman, education reformer Margaret McMillan, who, after working in deprived areas of Bradford, insisted that hungry children cannot learn, and the state must take responsibility for the nourishment of schoolchildren. This, of course, led to the School Meals Act and on October 28, 1907 - 113 years ago today - the country’s first ever council-funded school meals were served, at Bradford’s Green Lane School. Within weeks thousands of children across the city were being fed at school.

More than a century on, there are still hungry children. Just because we don’t see barefoot nippers in rags huddled on street corners doesn’t mean there isn’t child poverty and hunger. I once visited a camp for homeless families in Bosnia, where children didn’t have shoes and went scavenging on a tip. I returned to the UK thinking that child poverty is relative. And it is, but it still exists here. A friend of mine works in a school where some children don’t even have a change of clothes at home.

Let’s not romanticise poverty; anyone who works with poor and vulnerable families will be aware of mismanagement in some households, and parents putting drugs and alcohol before feeding children. Parents can be feckless, for whatever reason. Thus it ever was. But the children aren’t to blame.

As Childline founder Dame Esther Rantzen has said, there should be a safety net in place for the rising number of children facing hunger in this country, not just to tackle the food issue but to try and prevent the cycle of abuse from continuing.

“Children don’t forget,” said Dame Esther. Many Childline volunteers were helped as children. The chairman of Bradford Cinderella Club - which started providing free meals for poor children in the early 1890s, influencing the 1906 school meals legislation - went, as a child, to a holiday home run by the charity in the 1960s.

Children don’t forget. As a child, Marcus Rashford had free school meals. He clearly hasn’t forgotten the value of that.

This has been a year like no other, and the Government has supported businesses and jobs. But a Universal Credit increase of £20 a week won’t go very far for some families. Without free meal vouchers in school holidays, more children will be relying on food banks and other handouts. A sad state of affairs that Margaret McMillan would recognise all too well if she was around today.