‘I have to starve myself so that my five kids can eat...’

Tracy Kavanagh with daughter Abbey Ashwell at Leeds South Foodbank, Hunslet Methodist Church
Tracy Kavanagh with daughter Abbey Ashwell at Leeds South Foodbank, Hunslet Methodist Church
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For most families, the start of the school holidays is something to celebrate but for many parents in Leeds it is the beginning of a six-week struggle to put food on the table.

For South Leeds mum Tracy Kavanagh the summer break equates to the financial nightmare of providing a staggering additional 180 meals.

Already struggling to survive on benefits, the single mum-of-five simply doesn’t have the spare cash to pay for extra food.

So the bleak outlook for her this summer is that she will have to go hungry to ensure her children do not.

The 31-year-old said: “If there’s only enough to go round my five kids, I won’t eat.

“I might have one meal a day for maybe three or four days.

“I starve myself so they can eat because I would rather feed my kids than eat myself.”

She added: “In this sort of weather it makes me feel weak and dizzy but I’m starting to get used to it.”

Three of Tracy’s children are school-age and attend daily breakfast clubs and receive free school meals during term time.

That amounts to a massive 180 meals over six weeks.

Tracy said: “I’ve stocked up at the moment but I don’t know how long it will last with them being at home for the full six weeks.”

She added: “I only usually buy cereal for the youngest two but for the six-week holidays and other holidays I haven’t got the money to go shopping to buy stuff like that.”

She has been forced to turn to the Leeds South Foodbank three times – the maximum each service user is entitled to per year – and said the emergency supplies had been a lifesaver during desperate times when her benefits had been cut.

She said the most useful items in their emergency food parcels had been milk and cereal, with the youngsters getting through several pints of milk every day. And baked beans were also a big hit, providing much-needed nutrients to accompany whatever was left in the freezer.

Tracy, whose children are 11, eight, seven, four and two, urged YEP readers to back our Feed a Family campaign, saying: “Please do what you can to help. If I had a spare bit of money I would be willing to put some extra bits in myself.”

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