"We've had families in tears, because of how tough life is," says Community Spirited's Jane Allchorn, who is running the Isle of Wight's first Community Pantry.

"We've got a woman with a primary school-aged son who says it's really tough.

"They're not putting the heating on and he's eating such a lot, she's actually going without. We hear that a lot.

"Our members are just so relieved. We leave out cold drinks and if we have time, we do them a hot drink."

Isle of Wight County Press: The Community Pantry's Jane Allchorn, Keith Kite and Marie Clements.The Community Pantry's Jane Allchorn, Keith Kite and Marie Clements.

The Community Pantry in East Cowes is at the sharp end of the stark reality of the cost of living crisis.

In the first three weeks after opening its doors (and its fridge) it had signed up around 60 members.

Jane told the Isle of Wight County Press: "One couple came in with a very young newborn and they're really struggling.

"We're hoping other organisations will help and we can work in partnership.

"Having young children is financially difficult and they were so relieved.

"She was so grateful to be able pick really good quality items off the shelves.

"There are so many stories. People really need to know about them - so they can help up to help them." 

Isle of Wight County Press: Inside the Community Pantry in East Cowes, Isle of Wight.Inside the Community Pantry in East Cowes, Isle of Wight.

How does East Cowes' Community Pantry work?

Through connect4communities, there are plans to set up five community pantries on the Island. To join, members fill out an application form and can visit once a week.

On the shelves at Parkside Pavillion, on Vectis Road, are pasta, rice, sauces, tinned fruit, cereal and plenty more. 

There are also fridge and freezer items like milk, yoghurt, frozen chips, butter and cheese.

Members can choose two 'high value' items (like meat and tinned fish), ten other things and also add free fresh fruit and veg.

It is open between 1.30pm and 3.30pm on Tuesday, and between 10.30pm and 12.30pm on Wednesday and Thursday.

The East Cowes Community Pantry team offers cooking tips and recipe ideas and the project has become a "community within Community Spirited", says Jane.

Former volunteer Keith Kite is now a paid staff member, thanks to grant funding.

"This fridge used to be chocablock but it's almost empty today", he told me when I visited. "Cheese in particular is incredibly popular."

Isle of Wight County Press: East Cowes' Parkside Pavilion, home of the first Isle of Wight Community Pantry.East Cowes' Parkside Pavilion, home of the first Isle of Wight Community Pantry.

The pantry runs alongside Jane's home care business and three community groups (Mental Wellness on Tuesday afternoon, Knit and Natter on Wednesday morning, Games on Thursday). Regular clubbers travel from East Cowes, Ryde and Newport, but they are not the same people to sign up to the pantry.

"We are seeing what people need"

Jane thinks it shows there is a previously undiscovered need for support: "Everything you see going on here is down to us being a business that is out in the community. We are seeing what people need.

"Loneliness and isolation were key things over the years. 

"The people using the pantry are new to the project. They are people who weren't known to us. They're families with young chidren and older people who have been isolated. 

"We've identified people who have struggled with anxiety, but they have come in because they're desperate and it's meant we've been able to support them. Everything intertwines, which is what I wanted."

Isle of Wight County Press:

Kevin Allchorn and Christine Faulkner, on the team at Community Spirited.

Moving forward there are plans for more - such as a beans on toast evening. 

In the meantime, the project is inviting us to donate tinned and dried food and to volunteer time and support. 

Pantry space, though private and perfect for people who may be vulnerable and struggling, is already tight. It already needs a bigger space to expand to and recently lost out on securing an empty building in the town.

Meanwhile, it is trying to make sure it has a broad range of products.

"We're asking members if there's anything they'd like to see that we haven't got. Everything we do is user led. We have someone who's gluten free, so we've managed to get some products for them," Jane said.

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She is grateful to all those who have supported the pantry so far. Among them, Coop has been giving food to community spirited twice weekly for three years. Before the pantry it was used for cooking classes and for club members. Now, it can also be used for those who need support in financially tough times.

She said: "We're urging people to bring in items of dried and tinned food so we can keep our shelves stocked up. Eventually, the funding will run out and we need to be sustainable.

"If we can start that now, it would be really good."