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'I work full-time - but I had to visit a foodbank to feed my son'

Elyshia Matthews says she has been struggling to make ends meet Photo: ITV News

A single mum from Torquay has spoken about the shame of being forced to visit a foodbank despite having a full-time job.

Health worker Elyshia Matthews posted a video online saying she felt embarrassed and humiliated - but rising household bills and a cut in tax credits left her with no other option in order to feed her nine-year-old son.

She told ITV West Country it has been a difficult few weeks - but she has received dozens of supportive messages from people in a similar situation.

I felt humiliated, and I know I shouldn't use that word because it was a charity and it's somewhere that I needed, but I can't help the feeling that I had and the panic of 'Am I going to know any of these volunteers, what are they thinking of me, everyone's looking at me.' It was just really hard.

– Elyshia Matthews
Elyshia Matthews has a full-time job as a health worker at Torbay Hospital. Credit: ITV News

It was a shock to me that I'd got to that point and I did feel like there must be somewhere else, but it was my only option at that point, it really was. You don't talk about it, because why would you? It doesn't necessarily come up in conversation and you want to come across to your peers as strong and put together, we don't necessarily want to make ourselves vulnerable but I want to make a future for my son, I don't want for him to go through the same things I'm going through. This time next year I could be in a much better position. There are people that have been to the bottom and they've got back up.

– Elyshia Matthews

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The number of people using foodbanks has been rising steadily over the last few years, but recently some in the region are seeing a surge in working families asking for help.

8,791
emergency food parcels given out by Plymouth Foodbank last year
1 in 5
people in the UK live below the 'poverty line'
Eunice Halliday runs the Plymouth Foodbank. Credit: ITV News

If people are working but not earning vast amounts of money, they're still going to be part of the tax credit system or the benefit system in some way. And because of the way in which benefits have been frozen in the last few years, people therefore are still harder up than they were.

– Eunice Halliday, Plymouth Foodbank
The Plymouth Foodbank gave out more than 8,000 emergency parcels last year. Credit: ITV News

Plymouth City Council wants to set up a new food justice department to address the problem.

Labour councillors are asking the government to put into law its commitment to the United Nations goal of ending hunger by 2030.

They plan to set up a select committee to investigate the extent and causes of hunger in Plymouth and make recommendations about what can be done to tackle it.

Plymouth City Council is planning to set up a new 'food justice' committee. Credit: ITV News

Ultimately we don't want people to use foodbanks. The foodbank would rather not be there. We don't want people relying on soup runs or our own free veg box scheme. What we want is people being able to afford to eat healthily in the city, we don't want people in the city poor. It actually says in the Plymouth plan that we want to eradicate child poverty. So this is a bold move, but until then let's do what we can to mitigate now and change what the future might bring.

– Councillor Chris Penberthy

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