YORK'S foodbank has been inundated with requests for emergency meals as families struggle to feed their children through the school holidays. Kate Liptrot reports.

MUM-OF-FOUR Cheryl Diuga reached breaking point when she had one last tin of food in the cupboard.

The single mum from Acomb was struggling to provide for her young children and had been going without food so they could eat.

"When I came to the foodbank I literally only had a can of beans in the cupboards. I had gone to see the doctor and I was sat there in a floods of tears," Cheryl said.

"I was getting loans out and doing everything I could just to feed the kids.

"Being a mum who looks after her children, giving them a little bit of food and not the required amount was making me feel sick because I wasn't meeting their needs.

"I was in a situation where I believed that they were going to be taken away from me because I couldn't feed them."

Last summer, Cheryl was one of the 600 people who was referred to use York Foodbank as a crisis measure.

People can only use the foodbank if they are referred by a professional such as a doctor, social worker or teacher.

This year the numbers are expected to be the same, with the number of referrals - mainly for struggling families - due to increase by a third.

As York's schools broke up for the summer, 20 families were referred in need of emergency support but the numbers are expected to be higher as families struggle to find the extra cash for meals usually provided by schools.

"We peaked last summer and we expect we will this summer," Foodbank manager Laura Chalmers said, “We recognise that many families are only just able to survive financially, and during the summer holidays their lack of free school meals put extra strain on their household.

"We also understand that admitting that you are struggling to feed your family can be hard and often embarrassing, therefore we aim to provide a warm, welcoming and non judgemental space for these families to come."

Expensive child care, static incomes, a lack of housing in York, debt issues and benefit reforms have all contributed to the need for York Foodbank, she said.

Having struggled with her pride Cheryl, 33, remembers the warm reception she received when she arrived at the foodbank in the Gateway Centre in Acomb. She met Laura and was given a food parcel to last three days.

"Within an hour of being on the phone to Laura I was here and I've never looked back," she said, "I was greeted with a smile and told everything would be okay.

"Being able to go home with bags of food and being able to eat myself was just really good.

"When I got here I was really low, I was not smiling, laughing, I wasn't enjoying life. Getting up and feeding my kids was my main goal. When I got to foodbank and could have that bit of extra help has made me smile more."

She's now turned her life around - landing a new job, becoming an advocate for the foodbank and expecting to be debt free in a year thanks to the guidance of debt workers.

Laura said she hopes the reasons people need to use the foodbank will be addressed.

"People come to foodbank if it's a genuine crisis," she said, "We're here for crisis, we're not here to support people in the long term."

"It's funny because we're always trying to work ourselves out of a job. We don't want to be doing this in another two years time.

"I don't want to be doing it and we shouldn't be."


- The first Trussell Trust Foodbank was opened in York in 2012.

- Since it opened it has fed 5609 adults and 2881 children - It fed 3524 adults and children in 2014 - Almost 80,000 tonnes of food has been distributed

- There are now foodbanks in Acomb, Tang Hall, Clifton and Bell Farm

- People have to be referred to use the foodbank and can only use it three times in six months. If people need to use it more than that they are not turned away but the reasons are examined and extra support services involved.

- The food given out comes entirely from donations from people in York

- The reasons for use are mainly benefit delays, followed by benefit changes, low income and debt

- The family size of clients last year was: 47 per cent single, 17 per cent single parent, 14 per cent family, 13 per cent couple and six per cent other