You can’t eat the view

Cornwall is at its most beautiful right now. Wall to wall sunshine. Clear blue skies without endless plane trails. Uncrowded roads. To some that would be normally be the pinnacle of the dream and yet, right now, it really isn’t.

We are in a state of complete limbo. Despite the pockets of vast wealth that we have, areas of Cornwall remain in the top three poorest areas in Europe. What little economy we have is almost solely driven by the leisure industry, which traditionally starts up at Easter. Good weather means a bumper year – a plethora of hospitality-led zero-hours contracts, but at least it’s work? Yet this year we have nothing. Our sector is shut. Just this week, two of the biggest hotels in Newquay have closed their doors for good. There will be many more closures and much more unemployment to come.

Those who were already on benefits before this pandemic are probably coping better than most – being poor and going hungry was already their normal

It is true that those who were already on benefits before this pandemic are probably coping better than most – being poor and going hungry was already their normal. But right now they are being joined daily by a whole new section of people who have no idea how to cope.

People are being literally left to go hungry because they didn’t fit the furlough criteria, couldn’t get the self-employed help or simply couldn’t access the benefit system

Just last night on the regional news, the food bank at Camborne was featured. They painted an honest picture about the increase in demand. How people are being literally left to go hungry because they didn’t fit the furlough criteria, couldn’t get the self-employed help or simply couldn’t access the benefit system. This isn’t a new phenomenon. Cornwall very often doesn’t fit the national schemes. The food bank also highlighted the huge amount of people who thought they had a pretty good and safe income and are now stuck in a limbo land. No access to help, slow access to benefits (if at all) and facing the prospect of feeding their children from the food bank.

We are on the edge of a very, very big problem

We haven’t even got to the school summer holidays yet. We are on the edge of a very, very big problem.

I should also just touch on mental health. Whilst people with already diagnosed mental health conditions are largely coping OK (it was their normal anyway), huge numbers are being driven to turmoil by their sudden lack of employment, their total lack of opportunity and their near-complete lack of hope. The mental health services burst their banks long ago. GP surgeries can’t cope. The suicide rate is on an alarming rise. Yet it is the reliance on the charity sector that is fast becoming absolute. A whole other debate, but it ties in irrefutably and needs to be out there.

We don’t have any answers, but we do have amazing and resilient communities

So what are we doing? We have amazing schemes such as The Hive who are pioneering feeding people from literally nothing other than waste food. On just one afternoon last week they distributed 10,800 preprepared, packed and frozen meals to a charity in Newquay alone. This doesn’t even tie in with the food banks and their struggle to keep up supply.

Perhaps our biggest problem is that we don’t know what we are planning for, or when. The daily increase in demand is stressing our systems already and yet it keeps on growing. We don’t have any answers, but we do have amazing and resilient communities. However huge the problem, local mutual aid, kindness and support will get us through – but at what cost? Right now, no one can predict that.


Andrew Howell, End Hunger Cornwall
endhungercornwall@gmail.com

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