POVERTY-stricken residents in one of South Lakeland’s most affluent towns are flocking to a newly-opened food bank to fill their empty cupboards.
A steady stream of around 100 desperate single parents, families and benefit claimants has turned to a charitable emergency food store established in the basement of No22 Boutique, an upmarket clothes store on Main Road, Windermere.
It highlights that, in a town where houses are on the market for an average of £367,000, unemployment sits at a lowly 2.23 per cent and only seven houses are classed as in ‘stage four deprivation’, pockets of poverty still exist.
South Lakes MP Tim Farron said the opening of a food bank in the heart of the Lake District served as a ‘stark reminder’ that lots of people were still living in incredibly awkward circumstances.
Shop owner Rose Booth decided to set up the relief centre after a customer made a passing comment about people going hungry over Christmas.
She said: “Most people think the town is a honey-pot but there are sides of it that tourists don’t see.
“There has been a broad spectrum of people through the doors. They are walking among us but we just don’t know who needs help until they ask for it.
“A lad said to me: ‘Thanks for my spaghetti hoops’ – it broke my heart but made me realise why I’m doing it.
“Others have said they had no food in at all and were desperate. It’s heartbreaking.
“We can’t brush this problem under the carpet. We have to banish the segregation in the community and get over the shock that it is happening on our doorstep.”
Food is packaged into emergency three day hampers of dried goods and tins before being collected, or delivered to hungry residents.
Grateful couple Claire Ainsworth, 28, and Scott Beaumont, 32, live in a council flat on Lady Holme Walk with their four-year-old son Connor.
Mr Beaumont lost his hospitality job two years ago and since then the couple have struggled for money after benefit issues.
They began to use the food bank after their situation became so dire that they had to sacrifice two of their daily meals to have enough food for their only child.
Mr Beaumont said of the food bank: “It’s a God-send, we would be completely stuck without it. I honestly don’t know what we would have done.
“After all the bills have been paid we are left with £20 to last a fortnight.”
Ms Ainsworth added that poverty in Windermere was ‘masked from the tourists’ and that lots of people were struggling.
“People say Windermere could be the eighth wonder of the world but it’s definitely not.”
Fr Kevan Dorgan, of St Herbert’s Church, who has only been in Windermere for three weeks after moving from Barrow-in-Furness, said: “You get the illusion that all is wonderful in this town. But in fact the tourism industry masks the prob-lems and some people are struggling to pay bills and have a decent standard of living.”
MP Tim Farron said: “ It is a great privilege to live in this very beautiful area but for many people it’s a huge, desperate struggle to make ends meet.
“There is hidden poverty throughout England but all colours of government wrongly assume that rural areas are fine and prosperous”.
Figures from the 2011 census show there are a number of council flats in Windermere, particularly in the Town ward, where 20 per cent of housing is rented from the council.
Mr Farron added: “I am pressing the Government to build more social housing and working with constituents to help with their individual issues.
“I am also working with the council on its energy switch scheme, which is helping to cut energy bills by up to £300 and I'm pressing for a cut in fuel prices by 5p a litre in Cumbria.”
Bill Smith, Mayor of Windermere, said: “What is seen by visitors is not a true reflection of the town. There are people not living in the manner that most people in Windermere expect.
“I am now calling on the community to come together and donate as much as they can.”
Ms Booth is now seeking Trussell Trust accreditation for her food bank – the charity offers advice, support and help to more than 200 food banks across the country.
However, the trust requires potential new banks to raise £1,500 and have a stock of two and a half tonnes of food to prove their sustainability.
“There are so many coming here for help that the food is just straight back out – we are finding it hard to build up that much food,” she said.
She said the Methodist Church in Windermere had promised her a permanent venue.
- A satellite food bank was set up in Ulverston in December after it was revealed some users were trekking 20 miles and back to the food bank in Barrow.