Holiday Hunger: 'I’d probably have three very hungry kids' without foodbank, says Hebburn mum

Ashleigh McFarlane has three young children who she cannot afford to feed during the Easter holidays.

The single mother from South Tyneside uses Hebburn Helps food bank and needs that support as her children cannot access free school meals during the Easter break.

The cost of living crisis has got so bad for her, she is currently living with friends, unable to afford her own accommodation.

She told ITV Tyne Tees it is financially tough at the moment.

She said: "When they’re off, you don’t know when the next pay is going to be, how much you’re going to get, so it helps massively knowing that you’ve got Hebburn Helps here to help you with whatever food that you need, so you know that your kids aren’t going to be going hungry."

She said without the food bank, she does not know what she would do, adding: "I haven’t got a clue. I think I’d probably have three very hungry kids."

Angie Comerford, who runs Hebburn Helps, said she is seeing more and more vulnerable North East families struggling in poverty.

She said: "We do have a family that are actually cycling to work now and have had to get rid of their car.

"Prices of the fuel has gone through the roof, prices of the heating.

"I mean for a couple of year now, its always been a choice of whether some families are heating or eating, but the stories are getting worse.

"This Easter we are providing a meal a day for 176 children on the list.

"This means each child will get a meal a day, they’re all going to be taking Easter eggs away and activity packs."

This Easter, the food bank is also offering social and recreational facilities too, but for some teachers it shouldn’t be down to charities or schools to do this.

Deputy Head of Southmoor Academy in Sunderland, Sammy Wright, said: "I am really concerned about my pupils going hungry over the Easter break, both from a developmental perspective, but also because it has such an impact on them in terms of their confidence and their ability to engage with school, but I’m also so worried that actually this is something that is on the agenda for schools, because it shouldn’t be something that we are thinking about."

A government spokesperson told ITV News: "We've invested millions into the Holiday Activities and Food Programme to ensure that vulnerable children have access to free and healthy food options over the school holidays.

"Vulnerable children and families can access welfare support through billions in investment, including the Household Support Fund which was recently doubled to £1 billion.

"This is on top of the biggest ever increase in the National Living Wage since its introduction, to support working families more widely."

Angie Comerford, said she understands the government is providing some help to families in poverty, but argued they need to do more.

She responded: "It really isn’t enough. The government aren’t doing enough. Everything is going up. Nobody’s wages are going up. The benefits are still staying the same.

"It’s never ever going to be good enough, not until people are out of poverty."