“To End Food Poverty in Cornwall: Ensuring that everyone in Cornwall has access to nutritious and affordable food, and has the skills, knowledge and resources to eat healthily.”
Below you will find:
• Examples of existing work in Cornwall addressing the theme.
• Examples of existing work outside of Cornwall addressing the theme.
• Proposals of how work in this thematic area might be developed and expanded.
Existing Works in Cornwall
Trussell Trust Truro Foodbank’s Work and Findings
Foodbanks affiliated to the Trussell Trust share that organisation’s vision of ending food poverty and thereby ending the need for Foodbanks as well. We help people in food crisis by not just supplying food but also by working alongside referral agencies to ensure each person has access to an organisation that can offer advice about their particular circumstance to help them get out of crisis. We call this More Than Food and it is part of the Together for Change vision published by the Trust in 2020. That document identifies that unless ALL food aid organisations, policy makers and support bodies work together there will not be an end to food poverty.
The data collected by Truro Foodbank for example proves low income is the main reason for up to 60% of people coming to foodbank. The second biggest reason is benefits delay or changes. Unless these two issues are addressed food poverty will not be eliminated. The charity and voluntary sectors and public giving of time and resources cannot reverse the escalating trends of poverty, they can only work within an infrastructure of good government, with robust employment and welfare policies.
In addition to Trussell Trust foodbanks there are established independent foodbanks, some of which belong to the Independent Food Aid Network (IFAN) and some of which are independent of both networks. In all cases, the foodbanks in Cornwall are all very closely linked with local Churches across denominations and ecumenical Churches Together groups.
One example is CTIPA Foodbank (Churches Together in Penzance Area) and CPR Foodbank (Camborne, Pool & Redruth), who are working with a number of recently set up community food projects including local food larders and community fridges, street food and healthy eating projects.
Penzance is a good example of such a multi-faceted landscape of response: it is an urban area with satellite villages and rural / maritime / former industrial areas, with significant problems of unemployment, social deprivation and poverty. The issues are ‘joined up’ and there is inevitably some overlap and competition which we are seeking to address through a newly established collaborative forum, which will seek to minimise duplication, ensure as few as possible fall ‘thought the net’ and which will give a collective voice in calling for policy and resourcing solutions. It has the CTIPA (Churches Together in Penzance Area) foodbank, Growing Links (incorporating the Street Food Project), Breadline (run by St Petroc’s with input from CTIPA for the homeless) and the Cornwall Rural Community Charity and several social enterprise / CIC initiatives, including Food for Families, Whole Again Communities and a community gleaning group which gathers unused crops from the fields for distribution. Together, they provide weekly shops, hot cooked meals, healthy eating instruction and referrals / intersection with local and national government provisions and other welfare agencies, charities and community groups.
The food poverty work is conducted with an acute awareness of how that issue sits within a wider context of unemployment, severe housing shortages, of inadequate countywide healthcare provision and national perception of Cornwall being ‘the end of the line’. Importantly, there is a pressing sense of how all of this nests within even bigger concerns surrounding food insecurity and potentially wider social need in face of climate emergency and world affairs, made all the more apparent during the Covid-19 situation. Research published by Trussell Trust in 2020 found that 94% of people coming to foodbanks are destitute, and that the average weekly household income of Trussell customers is just £50 after rent. As Emma Revie, Chief Executive of the Trussell Trust, says ‘hunger is a symptom of the problem that we are seeing that is fundamentally poverty and destitution.’
Transformation Cornwall is a faith infrastructure organisation, who since Covid has been working alongside 19 of the Cornish foodbanks, Cornwall Council and both IFAN and the Trussell Trust. Transformation Cornwall join with local and national anti-poverty advocates such as Trussell, IFAN, ecumenical church and faith leaders, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Church Action on Poverty, Child Action on Poverty and so many others, to make clear that we want to see a UK with a strong social security system, with food banks no longer needed.
We are calling for a ‘Cash First’ approach to ensure people in need receive financial assistance rather than emergency food aid. The over reliance on charitable food aid must be drastically scaled back so that it does not become an institutionalised part of the UK social safety net. Cuts to UK welfare spending on families and children are directly linked to the increase in demand for food aid and has led to the current situation of charitable food aid filling the gap created by a flawed social security system and central govt cuts to local welfare assistance.
Our language matters: Anyone living in food poverty is living in poverty and this needs to be a key part of the narrative or we risk short-term sticking plasters, and a dialogue that ‘blames’ people experiencing poverty for situations that they did not create.
Any assessment of current needs and trends in this sector needs, of course, to be conducted in light of an over-arching awareness that this is not a temporary crisis, as Covid-19 has encouraged us to assume. The growth in food poverty has escalated steadily over the past decade, since the CTIPA Food Bank was first established in Penzance in response to a perception amongst Christian fellowships that their traditional charitable works were having to increase to meet an escalating and more complex social need and to meet a govern mental shortfall in provision of a social safety net. Covid has obviously contributed massively to a sharper rise in these existing trends, but we cannot assume that this is a short-term crisis, rather than part of the emerging trend of biological and environmental challenges / disasters.
Partnerships with referral agencies including local Christians Against Poverty groups, We Are With You, Active Plus, Seetec Pluss, Citizens Advice Cornwall, Pentreath Ltd, Firstlight and Cornwall Refuge Trust
TheSupport agencies play a crucial part in helping people in food crisis. Receiving food help may assist with the immediate need to feed a family but the underlying issues that create food poverty require specialist intervention. Increasingly the people coming to foodbanks are talking about complex needs, namely that there are many reasons that have created the current situation they face. National and local support agencies offering assistance with mental health concerns, drug and alcohol dependency, debt, domestic abuse, discrimination, unemployment and exclusion amongst others.
Some drivers of poverty are life events, like illness or redundancy, but most are structural, and exacerbated by increasing living costs, creating a cycle that keeps people trapped in hardship, typically this would include unemployment and low-paid, insecure work.
All areas of a persons life are adversely affected by the impact of poverty.Poverty fuels chronic stress as a result of worrying about how to afford living costs day to day, increasing feelings of hopelessness, making it more difficult to access healthcare and lowers self esteem. When a persons entire energy has to constantly focus on surviving with such few resources, that material poverty impacts into a poverty of relationships and poverty of identity.
What needs focus now is why so many people are struggling with a complex mix of two or more of these causes of food crisis. As the UK tries to re-establish societal norms the concern for many people is that dependency on assistance has become entrenched.
DISC Newquay is a Drop in and Share Centre. They are there to help people who have fallen into the poverty trap and all its attendant problems such as homelessness, debt, mental health, addiction, etc. If they can’t help directly, they will signpost to someone that can.
The majority of their demand is from homeless people who are temporarily housed or singles living in basic rented accommodation. By the end of December 2020, they had produced and distributed over 50,000 food portions. By January 2021 they were producing 6000 food portions a week, hit 8000 one week in February, and 137,000 by the end of March. That’s over 45 tonnes of food.
They have also supported the homeless pods in Truro for a period as a direct request via Cornwall Housing.
The Hive Cornwall
Food matters. It effects and shapes people’s health, livelihoods and communities, the natural world, our climate and even our cities, now and for generations to come. Despite, in theory, there being more than enough food for everyone, some people are starving, and some cannot afford it. Some are suffering from eating too much and the planet is suffering from too much left over.
The Hive, a Cornish charity, believe, “What starts here feeds the world”. Their mission is to address the ‘paradox of abundance’ and find ways to stem the shameful tide of wasted food. 3 million tonnes of surplus food are wasted in the UK during farming, and another 3 million during consumption. 600,000 tonnes of food go straight into landfill, before it even makes it into the consumption chain.
Working with the Royal Navy, The Hive have devised a process that substantially extends life of surplus and waste food, redistributing it to support people in Cornwall. As one of the poorest counties in the UK, it’s no surprise that there are areas of extreme poverty. What is shocking however, is that extreme poverty means children go hungry. It is estimated that is true for one on four children living in Cornwall.
The Hive is working to change that. Their long-term plan is to plant a centre of excellence for food waste into Cornwall producing 30 to 40 tonnes of food to support over 160 charities, addressing the critical challenges of climate change, food waste and food poverty.
Existing Works Outside of Cornwall
The Independent Food Aid Network
The Independent Food Aid Network (IFAN) is undertaking work in Scotland and England to promote a ‘cash first’ approach to food insecurity. This approach, based on learning from Scotland’s A Menu for Change project, has focussed on supporting people in financial crisis access financial entitlements and income maximisation advice rather than perpetuating a charitable food aid response to lack of income. As the IFAN Cash First Project states:
As the IFAN Cash First Project states:
• First and foremost, people facing financial crisis need advice and support to access ‘cash first’ solutions rather than emergency food
• We urgently need to slow down the entrenchment of a charitable food aid response to poverty
• Local authority support schemes, ideally involving easily accessible crisis grants, are vital elements of a functioning social security system.
This is an approach that is especially relevant to Cornwall because of the embedded low income economy.
Surviving the Streets UK
Surviving the streets UK was founded in 2017 by brothers James Robinson and Peter Robinson to help and support as many homeless & less fortunate people with nice hot meals, fresh warm clothing, sleeping bags and help to get people off of the streets and a warm bed and a roof over their heads. To date, they have given out over 240k meals around East Sussex and stopped tons of food from going to waste.
In partnership with Community Food Cloud, they run a 24/7 collection system. Using self-service automated lockers, they can provide contactless access to food and other items 24hrs a day. Members of the public or support centres in need of food, sleeping bags, tents or Christmas gifts for children, simply contact the charity via phone or email and receive a unique locker access code. Items available in the 24-locker include long-life, tinned and dried food packs for 1-4 people which last up to four days.
A video of the system in operation is available here: https://www.facebook.com/survivingthestreets.uk/posts/1344339942614410
Proposals for Future Work
A real solution to the two main reasons driving people to foodbanks: (1) the low income economy in Cornwall and (2) the workings of the benefits system
Pre-covid data from Trussell Trust foodbanks confirms that low income and benefits issues were, and continue to be, the two main reasons for people needing help with food. Yes, Covid has increased the numbers affected but unless these underlying issues are addressed the issues of poverty and food crisis will remain embedded in Cornwall.
This manifesto calls for policy makers and decision takers in local and national government to commit to, and put in place, ‘Cash first’ solutions in order to ensure that:
• Benefit process delays must end;
• The welfare system must be easier for people to navigate and access must be quicker;
• The uplift to Universal Credit is made permanent and extended to include those on legacy benefits;
• The status of ‘no recourse to public funds’ is ended;
• There is funding for local authorities to provide easily accessible and well-promoted cash grants directly to individuals and families unable to afford food and other essentials
• A real living wage is paid to employees.
Why are wages for many jobs 23% lower in Cornwall than elsewhere? Many people are on zero or low hours contracts; many rely on seasonal work; if people make a new claim for benefit or their circumstances change it takes weeks or months to resolve.
The solution to these issues lies with both public sector and private sector organisations but unless those with political influence constructively take the lead here there will be no prospect of addressing the root causes
Proposal from The Rt Revd Philip Mounstephen
I believe that if we are to make Cornwall a fairer and more just place in the future we should together commit to work to end the need food banks.
Since the Covid-19 pandemic hit, more people than ever have been pushed into destitution, unable to afford the essentials that we all need to survive. This has led to unprecedented numbers of people needing emergency food.
However, these problems are not new. The Covid-19 pandemic has shone a spotlight and accelerated many of the issues that communities were already facing. There has been a 71% increase in emergency food parcels provided by food banks in the Trussell Trust’s UK network between 2015/16 and 2019/20. This is not right.
As we come out of lockdown, now is the time to build a better future for our communities, one where people do not need to rely on emergency food provision. I call on this new Council to work together towards a hunger-free future.
To end the need for food banks and build back stronger communities, we need all levels of government to develop an action plan which:
1. Ensures everyone is able to afford the basics. People are forced to charities for emergency food when there isn’t enough money for the essentials. Elected representatives should support a cash-first approach wherever possible, instead of relying on the distribution of emergency food. This means using your powers to improve the sufficiency, accessibility and responsiveness of cash-based crisis grants available in your area.
2. Helps local and national services work together to ensure people get the right support at the right time. Elected representatives should invest in the local support services that help to address the underlying needs in their communities. They should also commit to helping local services work together, to provide support which maximises incomes and ensures people do not fall through the gaps.
3. Involves people with direct experience of poverty and local food banks in shaping any plan to end the need for food banks. Elected representatives should work with people with direct experience of poverty in our community and work with food banks on how to deliver an ‘exit plan’ for ending the need for emergency food aid.
Rt Revd Philip Mounstephen, Bishop of Truro
Take A Wider Political View
Accept that poverty, inequality and injustice in society is clearly present in Cornwall today and that the high income/low income gap is ever-widening. Therefore accept that food poverty is part of poverty generally and needs to be central to socio-economic and business policy making.
Accept that food poverty is interlinked with other vital areas such as climate change. There are huge benefits to seeing the food production and distribution chain as part of the climate change agenda: what we eat, how it is cooked, how many miles the food has travelled.
With acceptance comes ownership. If policy makers and decision takers in government and industry accept the relevance of food crisis to the above economic and climate contexts then actions MUST follow:
It should be a compulsory political manifesto pledge for all parties to actually address the issue. Rather than just giving out money to larders and community groups to ease the problem there should be clear commitment to fixing the problem. Specific examples of actions to address the root causes identified in this manifesto should be required in all political party manifestos for local and national elections.
Whilst the need for focus is appreciated, it is not helpful to segregate food poverty issues from the bigger picture of shifting socio-political trends in the national and world order and the unfolding and all-embracing demands of the climate emergency. We need to change to keep pace and sustainability of communities and food sources are a fundamental part of the joined-up strategic response necessary iif we are to address these big issues collectively and effectively.
Proposal from Jodie Tellam, Director at Growing Links
I think it is time for Cornwall council to show some respect to the grassroots organisations who have shouldered much of the crisis response and done so robustly and safely. These organisations have prevented disaster and should be acknowledged as such , the council needs to invest in what works, invest in supporting the incredible grassroots operations carrying vulnerable people through a crisis.
Here are some of my suggestions on how the council can support our community moving forward through a food crisis:
1.Visit community operations and find out what an effective crisis response looks like.
2.Provide funds for staff wages and volunteer support, training staff and volunteers in safeguarding , Equality and Inclusion , IAG and food hygiene.
3. Fund us to be able to pay our rent / bills / overheads / building costs
4. Address the challenge of local groups competing for the same pots of funding and how this impacts on effective crisis response.
5. Address areas of systemic weakness within state welfare provision and commissioned services which leads to them relying on the good will of community groups to be able to respond to people in crisis
6. Support the establishment of local food security networks including community groups and local growers.
Proposals from Simon Fann, Manager at Truro Foodbank
The low-income economy: political bodies and businesses should end the reliance on zero or low hours contracts. Active Plus can offer support and help to people with mental health or wellbeing issues but they are not able to help anyone on any kind of work contract, so even a zero hours contract precludes that person from accessing help.
Transport: Poor transport links and high costs again hinder people wanting to get themselves out of low-income crisis. One training course I did was for a housing organisation in Camborne, they were taking on apprentices for grounds staff and wanted them to be there for 7.30. One young apprentice from Mylor had to leave because there was no public transport that could get him there.
Isolation: Covid has created many mental health pressures – isolation is one of them. It means some people who need help do not reach out. When you combine low income with poor transport and isolation there is a perfect storm. That’s one reason why I see this manifesto as important…there are many interlinked needs and issues to be owned and solved. Not sure how you turn that into a proposal
At Truro Foodbank, and I expect many others, the two words being discussed most now are expectancy and dependency. Some customers have now developed embedded expectancy. It is not just about helping people in crisis we also have this now as a major challenge. The question is, how do we enable people to be weaned off this dependency? That is a very holistic proposal/demand but must be sorted if we are to end the need for Foodbanks.