With people forced to sleep under discarded carpet or live in their cars, it’s little surprise that the Penryn and Falmouth Foodbank has seen a dramatic increase in the number of people seeking its help.
In one hour on Monday alone, 101kg of food was distributed to those in need who had been referred to the charity. Over the financial year 2012/13, the Foodbank fed 1,299 people locally, compared to just 814 in 2011/12.
This year, that figure looks likely to escalate as already in the first five months, 1,000 people have received food boxes and the message is that almost anyone can find themselves needing help.
“I had preconceptions when I came to work here about the sort of people we helped,” said Foodbank coordinator, Dawn McColl. “But, there’s no type of person – anybody can lose their job or find themselves homeless. The stories you hear here can reduce you to tears.
“I am quite surprised by the amount of young people who are living independently and struggling to find work or paying very high rent. If you’re young and single, there’s not much support out there.”
The Foodbank does not just provide nourishment for those in need, but can also help in other practical ways. To aid this, it has set up a cyber cafe where three PCs and a laptop are available for those who need internet access.
“Anybody who needs to get online can come and do that here,” said Dawn.
“You cannot apply for social housing unless you do it online, benefits can be sorted out online and comparison sites can help in many ways.
“We really need some volunteers to help oversee the use of the computers as some people don’t have idea how to use them.”
The Foodbank has already made a difference to one young man’s life after he made use of the computers.
“He was a homeless guy who had been sleeping under carpet,” said Dawn. “We worked with him and found him housing in Truro, and before that was available we sorted him a tent for two days.
“He had handed his CV out, but there was no way for employers to contact him as he didn’t have a mobile phone. He used one of our computers to check his email and found one offering him some work and now he’s working at a hotel.
“Another guy in his fifties whose marriage had broken down is living in his car because no-one is going to house a single man, but we can help by sign posting people to others that can help.”
The Penryn and Falmouth Foodbank operates out of the Highway Community Centre in Church Road, Penryn, and hands out boxes designed for single people, couples and families with enough food for about five days. Food is distributed between noon and 1pm on Monday, Wednesday and Fridays.
“We include a recipe leaflet and for those who don’t having cooking facilities we put together a box of food that doesn’t need to be cooked,” said Dawn.
The Foodbank relies on the generosity of individuals and businesses, but receives much of its donations from local churches. Donations can be dropped off at the community centre between 9.30am and 2.30pm on the distribution days and also left at Asda, The Natural Store in High Street, Tesco Express at Grove Place and Espressini in Killigrew Street.
Anyone willing to volunteer at the cyber cafe should contact the Foodbank by calling 01326 618575.
Do you have a story about how benefit changes or a change in your circumstances caused severe financial hardship? Get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 01326 213 328, in confidence.