One in 10 young parents have used food banks and many skip meals because they cannot afford to eat properly, according to a report.
Research by the Young Women's Trust suggested young parents with secondary school aged children are most likely to receive supplies from food banks.
A survey of 4,000 people aged 18 to 30 indicated that one in four were always in debt, while barriers faced by mothers in finding work put a greater strain on their finances.
"Parents want to give their children the best but are facing huge financial challenges, especially over this Christmas period," said Joe Levenson of the Young Women's Trust.
"A shocking number are having to skip meals or turn to food banks in order to feed their children.
"They are telling us they want to be financially independent but a combination of low pay and high childcare costs prevents that."