Isle of Wight Adviser on Poverty and Community Pantry Growth

“We have set up an anti-poverty group on the Isle of Wight,” the Isle of Wight council’s adult social care manager told colleagues at County Hall.

In a statement prepared for last night’s council meeting, Cllr Karl Love detailed his own experience of poverty, recalling bullying and ‘shame’, and raised concerns about growing reliance on food banks and the very first community pantry on the Isle of Wight.

He wrote: “We need to carefully consider how we can respond and act to tackle poverty.

“We are trying to find ways to incentivize the construction of new homes, responding to the rental housing crisis. This is not a quick and easy solution and I encourage all owners of vacant second homes or empty properties to help by praising them.

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“We also need to encourage people living in large homes where they no longer need all the space to downsize or consider renting out some of them. This can bring many benefits, including the distribution operating costs and improved mental health and well-being.

“In East Cowes, my neighborhood, I can see families struggling and the situation and crisis getting worse. The impacts of this energy and inflation are already very harsh. So what can we all do to address this ?

“I asked [council officers] to motivate and stimulate new ideas and find ways to fight poverty all over our island. Our MP also recognizes and warns me of the tough economic road ahead.

“With skyrocketing energy costs and high inflation, it’s hard to keep up with the bills. We need to find solutions and not just react to the symptoms of poverty as they arise.

“On the new Community Pantry initiative, some see this as a good thing. How can people having to turn to Food Pantries be a good thing, I ask? I’ve expressed concerns about this to our Cabinet and to our management team several weeks ago after the first pantry opened in East Cowes.

“We and the government need to address the causes of poverty and what lies behind poverty. It’s not that I disagree with what Food Pantries…I dispute that our government should do more to avoid the need for such services and work to eradicate poverty.”

Cllr Love said his own experience as a child meant he remembered his mother’s ‘distress’ and ‘shame’ at having to seek help. He said the bullying to receive free school meals was a lasting memory.

“Poverty was a weapon against us,” Cllr Love wrote.

“We were punished for being poor and bullied for it. I never want to see that happen again.

East Cowes Town Hall.

“East Cowes City Council has been [supporting residents]. I encourage other city councils to do the same and I know many do.

“We must try to find ways to expand support for food banks and community pantries, but recognize that this does not address the issues that cause poverty.

“We all need to start thinking positively about the changes we all need to make now to help each other, share ideas and overcome poverty. Your ideas and thoughts, financial tips to save money are welcome.”

Norma P. Rex