Comments taken from interview with Truro Food Bank Chair of Management Committee, Malcolm Henderson
The Truro Food Bank on any given Thursday can be found operating at the back of Truro Methodist Church in the heart of Cornwall’s only city. The small room that houses the project is bright, inviting and filled by much warmth
and enthusiasm from those working there. In this room I would meet Malcolm Henderson, the Chair of the Management Committee at Truro Food Bank, however the kindness of the welcome in Truro masks a more depressing truth about the growing demand for their services.
At Truro Food Bank alone last year there was a 106 per cent increase in the number of people fed last year, totalling 2129 people and 641 children. They gave out a staggering 24.9 tonnes of food last year. More worryingly still, according to their records for the first time low income was the primary cause for people being referred to the food bank, with over 600 cases. The next most common causes for people seeking emergency food support were benefit delays (573 cases) and benefit changes (301). In contrast to the debate that is taking place in the media about why people are turning to food banks, Malcolm was clear about why he thought people were finding it increasingly difficult to support themselves.
“Zero-hour contracts,” he said, “appear to have trapped people so they might earn enough money one week and nothing the next, but cannot claim benefits.”
Here they are certainly not taking anyone simply looking for a cheap meal. In fact, people only qualified for food if they were referred directly to the food bank by a number of partner organisations, from the Citizens Advice Bureau to welfare charities. It is striking however how many people in work are also suffering from food poverty.
Despite the success of the Truro Food Bank responding to the increase in demand for support Malcolm was keen to stress they look forward to the day they are not needed. And to help them achieve that aim that they do not only support their community with emergency food but also run cooking classes to help people eat well cheaply. As well as these classes they have put together a menu with internationally renowned chef Sanjay Kumar, designed specifically
to use the ingredients of a food parcel, so people can eat as well as possible and make their food go further.
The Truro Food Bank may be an example of volunteers supporting their community when its members are in crisis, but more than that, during my visit it was clear to me that Malcolm and the entire team were truly passionate about
helping people support themselves. As we spoke, Malcolm reminisced about how in his youth communities would rally together in times of hardship, and the pressures of feeding the children, for example, would be shared. We may not live in such times as those anymore, but clearly in Truro that community spirit does live on.