I recently attended the Food and Cornwall conference in St. Austell along with three of my Cabinet colleagues – Councillors Rowe, Hannaford and Paynter. This aim of the conference was to get organisations like Cornwall Council, Public Health, businesses, voluntary sector and actual users of services. All in all, there must have been 100 people there.
A few of those gathered
Poverty in the UK is not something new, much like famine in Africa did not start at Live Aid. But what Live Aid and the campaign around it did do was to beam the images of children starving into our living rooms, which resulted in people becoming aware of the issues. Once people are aware, then something is done about it. This is like the reports of food and fuel poverty now being beamed into our living rooms, our tablets and phones. People cannot ignore the fact people are going hungry, and in large numbers too.
The stats on food poverty are stark. The Trussell Trust report in April 2014 that over one million people nationally received emergency food in 2013/14. This is a rise of 163% on the previous year. And yet the DWP still fail to acknowledge there is food poverty in the UK. You have to ask yourself what figure needs to be reached before food poverty is acknowledged.
It is Estimated 350,000 people are going hungry today in the UK, this is the same number of people facing hunger in Mozambique. Considering the UK is the sixth largest economy in the world and Mozambique is 117 it should shame the UK it has so many people going hungry.
Last year the Food Banks run by the Trussell Trust distributed 105,000 food parcels in the South West alone. There are 15 Food Banks in Cornwall. The Camborne, Pool, Redruth (CPR) food banks gave out 54 meals in 2010. This has turned into 14,490 meals given out in January 2013 alone, and for the whole of 2013, the CPR food bank issued 113,532 meals. And still the DWP still thinks there is no food poverty in the UK??
It is not only the food banks in Cornwall issuing out meals, but St. Austell’s community kitchen (STAK) has in the last four years served 58,594 teas and coffees, 16,008 hot three-course lunches and 7540 dinners. Speaking to the volunteers, this is just the tip of the proverbial food poverty iceberg.
Getting back to the conference, everyone agreed there was no magic wand someone could wave and food poverty would be sorted, but what did come out of the event, that people from across the spectrum needed to work together to address the issues facing our communities. From those gathered, lots of ideas were put forward, some more immediate and other more long-term, but what it did show was people gathered wanted to work together solve the issues, and not just blame others.
Just some of the aims of Food and Cornwall is:
- Map who is currently involved in providing food to older people
- Schools – achieve ‘Good Food for All’ and embed the importance of healthy school food culture within the education agenda
- Increase food utilisation by reducing the percentage of in-date usable food that goes to landfill from businesses and increase the percentage used to improve the lives of those most in need.
- Improve access to food supply and move from crisis response to sustainable quality and affordable food solution for all
- inspiring people of all generations to connect with fresh food and learning how to prepare healthy meals.
I gained a lot of valuable knowledge from the event and pledged that as the Portfolio Holder for Children and Young People at Cornwall Council would help address the issue of food poverty, as did my Cabinet colleagues.
I have also embedded a YouTube video that certainly brings home the message of food poverty in Cornwall is a serious issue.