Poverty and beauty side by side as food bank opens in Windermere

The Westmorland Gazette: Claire Ainsworth and Scott Beaumont, who have been helped by the food bank Claire Ainsworth and Scott Beaumont, who have been helped by the food bank

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.

Related links

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.

Comments (2)

Please log in to enable comment sorting

10:19am Thu 7 Feb 13

zaney5 says...

When hospitality businesses pay peanuts for wages and offcomers take all the (poorly paid) jobs, is it any wonder that local people struggle to earn a half decent living.
Bowness and Windermere have changed beyond belief from when I moved here nearly 40 years ago.
Not for the better I may add.
When hospitality businesses pay peanuts for wages and offcomers take all the (poorly paid) jobs, is it any wonder that local people struggle to earn a half decent living. Bowness and Windermere have changed beyond belief from when I moved here nearly 40 years ago. Not for the better I may add. zaney5
  • Score: 0

2:44pm Thu 7 Feb 13

jazzactivist says...

I'm not at all surprised that a food bank has opened in Windermere, and it's great that a local business owner, Rose Booth, has acted to offer some help to people who are struggling.

Any look at the WG jobs pages will show that wages / salaries in Cumbria are 25% lower than in many other parts of the country, but the cost of living, particularly for housing and travel, is much higher.

Something needs to be done at government strategy level to stop rural poverty. Tim Farron is carefully choosing his fights, but getting the government to recognise that rural poverty is more difficult to deal with on a daily basis than urban poverty would be useful.

However, more could also be done legislatively at local government level to end the low wages and high house prices here. it's no good the Council saying that they can't legislate over businesses and individuals - they could and should introduce a Lakes Weighting for wages, similar to the London Weighting system, and an upper cap on house prices to make the majority of existing housing stock affordable for people who work here.
I'm not at all surprised that a food bank has opened in Windermere, and it's great that a local business owner, Rose Booth, has acted to offer some help to people who are struggling. Any look at the WG jobs pages will show that wages / salaries in Cumbria are 25% lower than in many other parts of the country, but the cost of living, particularly for housing and travel, is much higher. Something needs to be done at government strategy level to stop rural poverty. Tim Farron is carefully choosing his fights, but getting the government to recognise that rural poverty is more difficult to deal with on a daily basis than urban poverty would be useful. However, more could also be done legislatively at local government level to end the low wages and high house prices here. it's no good the Council saying that they can't legislate over businesses and individuals - they could and should introduce a Lakes Weighting for wages, similar to the London Weighting system, and an upper cap on house prices to make the majority of existing housing stock affordable for people who work here. jazzactivist
  • Score: 0

Comments are closed on this article.

click2find

About cookies

We want you to enjoy your visit to our website. That's why we use cookies to enhance your experience. By staying on our website you agree to our use of cookies. Find out more about the cookies we use.

I agree