Fighting against food poverty!

I have raised £670 for three Ryde charities tackling food poverty on Pancake Day this year which are John’s Club, Tidal Family Support, and Ryde/IW Foodbank. I recently presented money raised to the volunteer team at Ryde Foodbank at Grace’s Church on the Marlborough Road.

Michael presenting £370 to Ryde Foodbank to Ryde Foodbank team with Pippa Hayward, local resident in Ryde Appley and Elmfield Ward. For more details about the work of IW Foodbank look at their website: Isle of Wight Foodbank | Helping Local People in Crisis

Campaigning and raising awareness of Food Poverty on the Isle of Wight

I raised questions at IW Council on food poverty recently in my role as Chair of IW Policy and Scrutiny Committee of Health and Social Care, I had food poverty on the agenda at the 4th March’s meeting. Representatives of IW Foodbank and the Food pantry at the Congregational Church in Newport made presentations and the IW Council confirmed that food poverty was part of the proposed anti-poverty strategy. In 2023, I had a successful motion to full council that resolved IW Council to significantly reduce child poverty on the Island by 2028. There are 3 food projects that provide free or reduced cost food to the most vulnerable in Ryde (Ryde Foodbank, Aspire, and Oakfield Food Pantry). One of the tragic facts that these projects are reporting is that there is an increase in working families who are in need. I will be continuing championing this issue. See below the food projects across the Island.

Community Garden in Ryde

Ryde Town Council’s community development worker has been working with a range of organisations to develop a community garden off Riboleau Street. Pupils of Ryde School have weekly gone to volunteer to transform the green space at Riboleau Studios into a community garden. Ryde Town Council is now putting a call-out for local residents to join them in helping to create this project – Join us in creating a vibrant community garden right here in Ryde! – Ryde Town Council  This project is part of a strategy to encourage people to grow their own vegetables and enjoy greenspace in the Town. I am proud that during Covid19 pandemic for IW Council land behind the Post Office Depot at Nicolson Road be opened as a green space and Rosemary Fields was born and 1000s of residents enjoy this now. You access it off Rosemary Lane. It is fantastic for blackberry picking in the Autumn.

New Ryde Youth Centre at St. Thomas’s Church

I recently hosted a visit to Ryde by the newly appointed director of IW Council’s Children’s Services and Education, Ashley Whitaker. He visited Network Ryde (Ryde’s award-winning youth service), Tidal Family Support on the Rink Road, and the new Ryde Youth Centre at St. Thomas’s Church. Both Network Ryde and Tidal Family Support are at the vanguard of supporting some of the most vulnerable children in the Town. Ashley and I were shown around the new centre which is currently being renovated and restore. It was amazing inside and one of the fantastic revelations was a superb kitchen area that could be used for cookery classes. Network Ryde already has a young people’s allotment on Quay Road in Ryde, so in the future young Ryde residents will be able to grow their own vegetables and fruit and cook them.

Network Ryde | Youth Cafe

St Thomas’ Church in Ryde to be transformed into a vibrant community space (onthewight.com)

Grow Your Own

I have my vegetable patch in my front garden, and I have just started to sow the seeds and plant broad beans, lettuce, potatoes, and carrots. It was an unused space, so I bought some old railway sleepers and built some raised beds. I always remember my grandmother’s front garden was used for vegetables which she started in the Second World War as part of the Dig for Britain campaign. We need a strong Grow Your Own campaign on the Island.

References and Further Information:

‘Feeding the Island’ – Report and Survey by IW Public Health (2024) in regard to Food Insecurity on the Island

  1. Introduction and rationale

This short survey, ‘Feeding the Island’, was implemented by the Isle of Wight Council public health team, as part of their work with the Island Food Strategy Group (IFSG).

The survey was live between July to September 2023 and received 57 individual responses, of which we were able to use 31 for our data analysis.  The survey results will enable us to form a clearer picture of the distribution and location of food provisions across the island and it will identify the gaps that exist locally. This insight will allow the group to prioritise the issues, with a list of key considerations to inform future work plans. 

The IFSG was established after a conference in November 2022, that explored the

rising concerns seen locally and nationally around food insecurity and food waste.

This strategic group is a partnership between the public & voluntary sector organisations who address the food insecurity issues that have been exacerbated by the rise in cost of living and the global pandemic.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) states that food insecurity means having limited or uncertain access to adequate food[1].   The FSA You 2 survey, conducted between October 2022 and January 2023, revealed that levels of food insecurity reached 25%, an increase from 16% when the first wave of the study was conducted between July and October 2020. 

A likely contributing factor to the change between study waves is the rising cost of living. National data released by Citizens Advice (CA) (October 23), provided clear evidence that the rising cost of living is causing an increase in demand for their services.  This data is continuously being updated to show the current information.[2]

  • By the end of October 2023 CA had helped over 222,000 people with energy issues. This is higher than at this point in any year on record in the UK.
  • The average person CA help with debt advice used to have £19 left over each month after paying for their essentials. Now, they have an average shortfall of £20 per month.
  • The number of people CA have helped with crisis support has risen by 58% in the last 4 years.

Further data from The Food Foundation (March 2023) also shows a significant proportion of essential workers in the UK are struggling to access enough food.[3]

Food insecurity was experienced in January 2023 by:

  • A quarter (25%) of households in which NHS and social care workers live 
  • More than a quarter (26%) of households in which food sector workers live
  • More than a fifth (21%) of households in which education sector workers live

We know health inequalities exist and are widening, particularly in some parts of the Isle of Wight with some areas experiencing more deprivation including Newport, Ryde, Sandown and Freshwater. The survey results show that of the responses we received, most food provisions are located in these more deprived areas.  The data also demonstrates we have seen an increase in footfall of residents accessing food aid, and of new Foodbanks, Community Pantries or similar provisions opening, especially within the last year. Figure 1 shows that on the Isle of Wight there are no areas with the lowest risk of food insecurity. 

The University of Southampton has developed an overall food insecurity risk index (Smith et al, 2012) which includes sub-indices which measure the risk of economic, mental health and structural factors:

  • Compositional index – includes benefit claimants, low income, mental health

and educational attainment

  • Structural index – includes bus stops, distances to employment / food stores

and internet speeds.

There are large amounts of food insecurity on the Isle of Wight. Large parts of the Island are in the two deciles most at risk of food insecurity. Structural food insecurity on the Island is high, with large areas in the decile of highest risk with poor access to shops, and additionally the high levels of deprivation in urban areas mean that in areas where structural insecurity is low, compositional insecurity is high.

Figure 1: Isle of Wight map based on Food Insecurity Risk Index.

Source: JSNA, Healthy Places[4] 

  • Feeding the Island Survey

The data used in this report has been collected via a survey which has been circulated to known providers across the Island. Public Health requested the survey be shared with providers not currently known to the Isle of Wight Council.  Therefore, we are unable to comment on the true reach of the survey and are aware that it did not capture everyone currently working in this field.    

There were originally 57 responses collected however some have been removed from the overall analysis.  This was because they did not directly offer an urgent food provision but services to support food insecurity such as distributing food vouchers or were not relevant as offered private catering.  There were also some duplicate responses, whereby more than one person responded from the same organisation but may have only provided information on the area in which they work.  The analysis is based on 31 responses, which includes 12 duplicates. 

The survey asked respondents a range of questions allowing for qualitative and quantitative data analysis.  This report will present this data in a series of maps, graphs and narrative. 

After some questions there was an additional free text question that allowed for respondents to elaborate on their responses. This allowed for qualitative analysis and the key themes that emerged were:

  • Cost of Living Crisis
  • Increase in Footfall
  • Families accessing food provision
  • Social Connection/Interaction
  • Signposting

From the data analysis, there is evidence to suggest that the Isle of Wight is following the same trajectory as the rest of the UK and food insecurity is a growing concern as the rise in cost of living continues.  The report lists six key considerations that will inform future work plans. 

  • Analysis of survey data

This section will explore the finding of the geographical spread of the food provisions. After this, we will highlight the key findings and themes of this survey.

3.1 Geographical snapshot of food provisions across the island

Figure 2 indicates that there are clusters of multiple food provisions across the Island. There is more concentrated coverage in Newport, Ryde, Freshwater and the Bay areas. The map indicates that there are less food provisions on offer currently in the South Wight. The map shows where there are food banks, food banks with other services and other services.  Other services are more common across the island. The other services that respondents could select were Community Pantry, Community Larder, Community Fridge, Community Café – Free meal, Community Café – Donation/Low Cost, Community allotments, Mobile and Pop Up Food provision and Pay as you feel shelf/table. 

Figure 2: Isle of Wight Map showing food provision information gathered from the Feeding the Island survey.

A map of the island of the pacific

Description automatically generated with medium confidence

The Island is the 80th most deprived authority in England (out of 317) according to the Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD) 2019. However, there are pockets within the Island that fall within the most deprived areas in the country, namely Pan (Newport) and Osborne (East Cowes). Deprivation taken from JSNA Demography written report[5]

Figure 3 below indicates that the survey respondents offering access to low cost/no cost food are most typically located in the more deprived communities across the Isle of Wight. These deprived areas are Newport, Ryde, The Bay and Freshwater. These deprived areas shown in this map are shaded by the darker colours. However, some provisions are also located in areas less recognised as deprived. These locations are Bembridge, St Helens, Cowes and Gurnard.

Responses from Niton, Whitwell and Shalfleet indicate that there is currently no access to low cost/no cost food provisions in these areas. There were no responses from the Seaview and Nettlestone area.

Figure 3: Isle of Wight map showing list of organisations as per the Feeding the Island survey. The organisations are mapped by LSOA Deciles.

A map of the island of the ocean

Description automatically generated

From the responses it suggests that some areas of the Island do not offer any food provision currently.  However, it is unknown whether this is because residents of these areas are accessing food provision elsewhere or there is not a need.

Key Consideration 1:

  • Work with survey respondents to understand where the attendees travel from to access their food provision.
  • Undertake community engagement work to understand if there is a need in those areas that do not have a food provision including the areas that did not respond to the survey.
  • Produce an updated map detailing information around any food provisions identified since the survey was completed.

3.2 Type of Food Provision and duration of operation and stock

In addition to the different provisions our respondents could select (as listed previously) there was the option to enter free text.  Other provisions referred to included, warm spaces and wellbeing cafes where people could get a drink and something to eat.  During the school holidays some providers offered breakfast and lunch clubs for children. Also offered are food bags and seasonal support packages such as Christmas hampers. The seasonal support packages and food bags are subject to localised funding and may not be available to everyone experiencing hardship. All these provisions support people experiencing food insecurity, but in many cases offer other support and signposting to further services.

In the creation of the survey, definitions of the different provisions were not supplied. We are aware that stakeholders working in this sector may have different definitions for the spaces within which they work. Therefore, there may be confusion around the type of provision on offer and the criteria attached.

Key Consideration 2:

  • It would be beneficial to ensure that organisations who set up food provision have clear understanding of the provision it is they offer.  Clarity around definitions should be considered and shared. This would also be beneficial for members of the public to understand what provision is available and how and when it can be accessed.

Figure 4 below indicates that 35.5% of food provisions opened within the last year.  However, it also shows that some provisions have been in operation for more than 5 years. This may indicate that the provisions which have opened within the last year is due to the rise in the cost-of-living, creating an increase in need.

Figure 4: Survey responses to: When did the Food Provision start?   

The Isle of Wight Council, Connect4communities oversees the Household Support Fund from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).  This has established a network of Community Pantries across the Island since 2022, to help bring lower cost food to vulnerable households whilst also reducing the Island’s food waste.

A Community Pantry works on the basis of a helping hand and is open to all Island residents.  With the Foodbank offering crisis food support as the first rung on the food ladder, a Community Pantry gives support with the cost of food, for £5 residents can select products with a value in excess of £15.   A large proportion of the food at a Community Pantry is reusable rescued food, therefore changing on a weekly basis. 

The connect4communities team are hoping to expand the network of Community Pantries, however this will be subject to future funding.  It is not yet known if the Household Support Fund will continue beyond April 2024. 

Stock Provision

We wanted to understand how the respondents obtained their food stock, either through food donations or paid for.

Figure 5 indicates that the most common response when looking at stock provision was that of organisations relying on both paid goods and donations.

Figure 5: Survey responses to: Is the stock for your provision: donated, paid for or both?

The Independent Food Aid Network UK (IFAN) is a network of organisations that distribute emergency food to those in need in the UK.  Since April 2022 IFAN has found that 72% of food banks reported a drop in food donations and 87% said they were experiencing supply issues, with 19% having to reduce food parcel size. (n.d.)[6]

This national drop in food donations is of concern if the urgent food provision is to be sustainable.  We did not ask our respondents if they have noticed a drop in donations therefore some work in this area needs to be undertaken to understand the situation locally.

Key Consideration 3:

  • Work with survey respondents to understand if the national trend of decreased stock donations is reflected on the Isle of Wight and the implications this may have for sustainability.
  • Balanced meals and dietary needs

Twenty-two out of 31 (71%) respondents answered Yes to the question“Generally speaking, would people using the food provision be able to make balanced meals from the stock available? (e.g., a healthy balance of carbohydrates, protein and vegetables/ fruits)”

When asked “Generally speaking, does the stock available allow special dietary needs to be met? (e.g. allergies, intolerances, cultural, religious or other personal beliefs/preferences)” 16 out of 31 (52%) of the respondents said they were always/mostly able to meet these needs.

Respondents answered that purchasing special dietary foods are generically more expensive, and often there is a very small amount of these items being donated or becoming available through the surplus food collections.

3.4 Funding of food provision services

Respondents were asked how they fund their food provision service and given a choice of: Isle of Wight Council, Town and Parish Council, Grants (not linked to either IW Council or T & Ps), donations and other.  For those respondents who indicated that they received funding from multiple sources, this is any combination of the above. Figure 6 indicates that provisions across the Isle of Wight are heavily reliant on obtaining funding from donations and funding via multiple sources.

Figure 6: Survey responses to: Who funds any food provisions the service offers?

As the rise in the cost of living continues the voluntary sector are concerned that accessing funding is becoming more competitive and difficult to achieve.  There is also concern that purchasing stock from the supermarkets is challenging, given to the high costs of food.  Work needs to be done across the network to ensure sustainable food provision models are carefully considered.

Key Consideration 4

  • More support to be offered to food provision providers to ensure that they have a sustainable business plan in place.
  • Ensure all funding opportunities are communicated across the food provision network.
  • Thematic Analysis:

4.1 Cost of Living and an Increase in footfall

A consistent theme from our respondents was that people who access their food provision service have been ‘hit hard’ by the cost-of-living crisis and as a result have noticed an increase in footfall. 

Two survey respondents mention Universal Credit. This is relation to contactors having irregular work and needing to dip in and out of Universal Credit and the larder. The other respondent specifically mentions the amount of time someone has to wait for a Universal Credit application when supporting either a crisis or more complex issues. The Government website indicates that applications for Universal Credit can take up to five weeks, validating the respondent’s comment.

This suggests claimants are experiencing a delay in receiving their benefits resulting in a gap in income and therefore are needing to access food provision due to insufficient funds. 

Responses included:   “Pensioners struggle with the cost of living and need to top up their larders” “Struggling people have been able to benefit by having free food to supplement their weekly diet and shopping needs”

The current rise in the cost of living has led to more people accessing food provision.  Of the 31 responses, 27 (87%) have reported an increase in footfall over the last 12 months. This includes those provisions that have opened in the last year as reporting is done on a quarterly basis.  This, alongside the increase of provision over same period, demonstrates the demand for these food provisions.

Responses included:    “Between the beginning of January and the beginning of June this year, we’ve seen a 214% increase in visitors to the larder”   “There has been a significant increase in the numbers of people coming to the café to the point where we may have to now open two days a week … and perhaps in a different location as well”

4.2 Families accessing food provision

From the thematic analysis of this survey, respondents mentioned that families are more commonly accessing low cost/no cost food provision.  This is by attending pantries and/or food banks, receiving food parcels, children attending breakfast/lunch clubs especially during school holiday time and receiving food/supermarket vouchers. Further research is required to understand the pattern of use by families.

Responses included:   “We provide breakfast for vulnerable families – the breakfast provision is very much appreciated with many saying they go without breakfast to be able to afford other resources”   “This has been extremely beneficial lots of the local families would not have managed without us”   “Hundreds of families have had food, either with recipes or as a food parcel”

Key Consideration 5:

  • Work with schools to gain insight of the different food provision offered. 
  • Support schools to increase the uptake of Free School meals and food offered at any school holiday provision.
  • Work with Family Hubs to promote Healthy Start Vouchers

4.3 Social Connection / interaction

The survey demonstrated the opportunity for individuals from all backgrounds to socially connect, receive emotional support and build mental resilience.  Warm spaces, wellbeing cafes and community cafes particularly provide this environment where people come together to share hot drinks/biscuits or a meal.

Responses included:   “We have consistent visitors, that appreciate the food provided, but an important part is the company and sense of community”.   “We feel that the companionship is also helpful as many of our attendees are older and alone”   “People have benefitted by having a nutritious meal, alongside social interaction and access to additional support to help them to become more in control and resilient”  

4.5 Signposting

Respondents were asked if their food provision was co-located with any other voluntary, community, or statutory service.

Figure 7 shows that 13 out of 20 (65%) individual food provision organisations work in co-location which enables the opportunity to signpost attendees to other services.  This takes the form of either more than one organisation being based in the same building, or an organisation visit another as outreach. 

There were 3 responses which indicated other. For the purpose of the survey report they have been excluded.

Figure 7: Survey responses to: Is your food provision co-located with any other voluntary, community or statutory service?

A respondent gave a good example of how this can work.

“In addition to our community larder, we run free drop-in employability sessions every Wednesday.  Other organisations hire rooms regularly, e.g., Barnardo’s runs parenting sessions; Adult Community Learning runs Maths, English and IT sessions; we run cookery programmes in conjunction with Barton Primary and the Island Learning Centre; and SEETEC runs work coaching sessions for job seekers”.

Signposting is crucial as often not being able to afford food is only one part in a chain of issues. Joined up working is better for residents to ensure their needs are fully understood.

Key Consideration 6:

  • Work with the food provisions to identify whether any other services need to attend to support with other information and signposting.
Responses included: “We invite other providers/support agencies to our meetings & community talks as well as us signposting to all when their support fits the community members needs best”   “But it’s not all about the food.  We provide a team of volunteers who support the members emotionally and help signpost them to other services who can help”  

The survey data indicates that there is a variety of people working in the community as Community Connectors, Community Resilience Officers and Community Development Officers.  Many of these are co-located within other organisations, for example a Community Connector is based within Isle of Wight Foodbank.  Having such roles available in these environments means that they can offer direct support and signposting to those accessing the food provision.

5. Data Caveats

There were some limitations to the data we received:

  • Due to the limitations of this sampling method of the survey, we are aware that not all providers currently working in this field received the survey
  • We understand from the survey that the food providers have identified their own type of food provision from a list selection within the first question. However, the survey did not include a definition of each provision. 
  • For this report it was deemed necessary to exclude schools from the overall data analysis. There was a low up take from the schools therefore it would not be appropriate to make judgement of the provisions in the local primary and secondary schools.

6. Key Considerations

Key Consideration 1:

Key Consideration 2:

  • It would be beneficial to ensure that organisations who set up food provision have clear understanding of how to promote the provision  they offer.  Clarity around definitions should be considered and shared. This would also be beneficial for members of the public to understand what provision is available and how and when it can be accessed.

Key Consideration 3:

Key Consideration 4:

Key Consideration 5:

  • Work with schools to gain insight of the different food provision offered. 
  • Support schools to increase the uptake of Free School meals and food offered at any school holiday provision.
  • Work more closely with colleagues in the CYP and Family Hubs portfolios around promotion of Healthy Start Vouchers

Key Consideration 6:

  • Work with the food provisions to identify whether any other services need to attend to support with other information and signposting.

7. Conclusion:

The survey has provided us with some valuable insight into where the food provisions are currently located, how they are funded and where the stock is sourced.

A limitation of the survey is that we asked partners offering food provision to circulate it to others who may be working in the field. This meant that we were unable to identify the true reach of the survey, but as previously stated in the report we are aware it did not reach all areas of the island. For example, we believe there to be provisions in the Sandown and Shanklin areas, however they did not respond to this survey.

The analysis has highlighted that families, elderly residents and those who are working are struggling to pay for household bills.

The national trend is suggesting that less stock is being donated than in previous years to foodbanks and pantries. Work will need to be undertaken to understand if the picture is the same on the island.  The survey data shows a significant increase in both food provision services and those accessing them over the last 12 month period.

As evidenced in the introduction there are significant pockets of deprivation across the Isle of Wight and this has only been exasperated by the challenges associated with the rise in cost of living. It is unknown whether the Household Support Fund will continue past April 2024, and as suggested in the key considerations, work should be undertaken with the food providers to support them in the writing of robust business plans and funding applications.

As mentioned within the data caveat section we have excluded schools from the overall analysis.  Those who did respond offered some food provisions.  Within the key considerations, some more focused work with schools is suggested. For example, Increasing the uptake of Healthy Start Vouchers and Free School meals may alleviate some of the challenges currently facing families currently but it unfortunately may not solve the problem of living in hardship.

The survey shows that the situation is critical at this challenging time and very much highlights that this not a localised problem on the Isle of Wight, but across the whole of the UK.


[1] FSA’s flagship survey shows food insecurity continues to rise | Food Standards Agency

[2] The cost of-living-crisis — a new nightmare normal | by India Walden | We are Citizens Advice

[3] New data shows UK essential workers face devastating food insecurity levels | Food Foundation

[4] Microsoft Power BI

[5] JSNA Demography (iow.gov.uk)

[6] Data | IFAN (foodaidnetwork.org.uk)

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