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Foodbanks in Cornwall - a report from Truro Foodbank

Key findings:

  • Nearly 900 people were fed by Truro Foodbank in 2022 (so far), up from 463 in 2019.
  • The main reason for food bank referral is 'low income'; the second is 'benefits'.
  • Moving forward, we need more information about the true cost of living in Cornwall, and research into how Universal Basic Income in Cornwall could help those in need.

The following is data about people fed in the Foodbank by age range from the start of April to mid-June 2022 (10 weeks).  To show the rate of change, these figures are compared with the same period for last year (when Covid was a massive impact on society) and with 2019 (when Covid had not yet arrived). 

Here are the results:

People Fed








Adults 17-24yrs




Adults 25-64yrs




Adults 65+




Adults age unknown




Child 0-4




Child 5-11




Child 12-16




Child age unknown








41% of vouchers issued in the last ten weeks were given to single people, 22.2% of vouchers to families, 16% to single parents, 11.4% to couples, the remainder “other”. So at least 38% of vouchers from referral agencies are issued to a household involving a child/children. 

Truro Foodbank have over 250 agencies registered on the Trussell Trust system that can give people in food crisis a voucher to receive food from us.  In practice 60 agencies supply the vouchers to customers at this time. Before Covid the agency referring most people was Citizens Advice (supplying about 25% of referrals).  During the pandemic Citizens Advice no longer saw people face to face and the main referral agency became the GP practices in the area we cover, which between them amounted to 25% of all vouchers issued up to 31/3/21.

Of the 1389 people fed from 1st January to 23rd April 2022:

• The biggest referrer is now the Job centre (21% of all referrals)
• Citizens Advice is still at 5%
• Schools now create 15% of referrals
• Family support agencies (early help, crisis team etc) supply 15%
• GPs have changed practices due to being previously overwhelmed so they have directly issued only 2% of vouchers now and are recommending people find vouchers elsewhere

Accordingly the source of referrals tells us that it is people with insufficient earned income and families that are most in need.  Maybe this is not surprising but the information is helpful in being able to show politicians and other decision makers where the source off the issue lies and who is most affected. 

In the last two years, incoming donations were very close to what Truro Foodbank gave out:

  • 1st April 2019 - 31st March 2020:   IN   44,876 kilos   OUT 45,120
  • 1st April 2020 - 31st March 2021:   IN   64,243 kilos   OUT 65,631

But for the same period in 2021-22, the position is:

  • IN   54,940 kilos    OUT 57,274.

Up until the end of the 2021, incoming and outgoing food was about the same.

Since the 1st January 2022, Truro Foodbank received 13,571 kilos, but distributed 17,395 kilos.

The main reason for referral is low income; the second reason is benefits.  This ranges from  delay to benefits, change of, etc. There is also in-work poverty, insecure work income etc. We really need more specific data. 

We need an accredited institution to provide research and data for the following:

  1. What is the true cost of living in Cornwall?  Is there evidence to support a "Cornish Living Wage" that actually needs to be higher than the Living Wage Foundation recommendation, let alone the Govt figure? Unless someone is on a guaranteed national payscale they are likely to be paid less here for doing the same job as someone else doing it in the South East or other parts of the UK.  Yet water bills, rents and energy prices are thought to be similar.  We asked the Living Wage Foundation to use their metrics to calculate what the living wage should be for Cornwall.  Understandably they will not do that because they run a national campaign, which would be undermined if every region followed its own agenda.  Therefore, we need someone else to do this.  We need research to confirm whether there is a justified argument for a Cornish Living Wage.
  2. Will Universal Basic Income work in Cornwall?  There have been pilots in Wales and Barcelona.  Given how seasonal income affects many people, given that the universal Credit benefit system takes time, is geared to reducing amounts paid, etc can research be done on the demographics in Cornwall to objectively advise whether UBI would work here?  Would it assist getting people out of poverty?  

Moving forward we need:

  • More involvement of people with lived experience in the design of services.
  • Promotion of the Good Business Charter as signatory businesses should not be abusing short notice shift cancellations, imposed zero hours contracts etc
  • Creation of a Cornwall Food Policy Pact
  • Payment of a Cornish Living Wage if the research justifies it.