The Kitchen Collective Steps Up

The Kitchen Collective is our new program aimed at supplying cooked meals to those in need during the Covid-19 crisis. While we also deliver food parcels, there is no substitute for a hot meal, and that’s not something everyone can take for granted. 

We want to thank all the individuals and groups who have already joined the Kitchen Collective. As of today, we are producing around 500 meals a week: these go to the elderly, homeless people in temporary accommodation, and children who would normally receive free school meals.  

Why is the Kitchen Collective Necessary?

New data from the Food Foundation has found that almost a fifth of UK households with children have been unable to access enough food in the past five weeks, with meals being skipped and children not getting enough to eat. Families who were already at risk are now battling isolation and a loss of income.

The strain on larger families, single parent homes and those with disabled children has been immense. A reported 30% of lone parents and 46% of parents with a disabled child are facing food insecurity and finding it difficult to manage basic nutritional needs at home. With schools no longer providing a reprieve for children reliant on free breakfast clubs and school lunches, poorer families are at crisis point.

In addition, the number of food insecure adults is estimated by the Food Foundation to have quadrupled since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.

Older adults are particularly affected, as this is a time when support networks such as AGE UK have been unable to operate as normal, and going to the shops may be high risk or even impossible. Often, people who use these services also face difficulties cooking for themselves. This has compounded food insecurity in this demographic.

How We Got Started 

We were concerned that providing food shops and parcels from our food larder was not enough to meet the needs of some at-risk groups. More needed to be done to ensure that people had access to appropriate food resources.

So, on Friday 1st May, we launched our first Kitchen Collective programme in partnership with AGE UK, Dementia Oxfordshire, Cutteslowe Primary school and University College. 150 meals were delivered on that day, with a further 170 on Tuesday 5th May, and deliveries have continued twice weekly. 

Since then, the Cherwell Boathouse and St Anne’s college have begun contributing meals, taking our total up to nearly 500 meals per week. Jesus College, Wadham College and Christ Church have also joined the scheme by providing financial sponsorship. 

TVR Self-Drive and Talkington Bates have lent us vans and coolboxes, which our volunteer delivery drivers use to deliver meals three or more days per week. We have worked hard to ensure that everything runs smoothly and to avoid food waste, finding homes for surplus meals by coordinating with other areas of our work, including our Ramadan project.

This has been a truly collaborative initiative, bringing together support organisations and local businesses across the county. Whilst we provide ingredients and coordinate delivery, the food suppliers provide kitchen spaces and professional kitchen teams. Schools, charities and community groups help us to identify and supply at-risk groups.

Oxford Mutual Aid is very proud of our connections with a wide range of other organisations, who have enabled us to provide far-reaching support, and root our efforts in Oxfordshire’s local communities.

What Has the Response Been?

We have had some very positive feedback from meal recipients. One lead Dementia adviser told us “The food is absolutely amazing… my clients are so grateful to everyone, especially the chefs and delivery drivers.”

One meal recipient also wrote to us about the impact of the meals, saying, “Your gift of hot meals at a time of loneliness and desperation has cheered me up so much. Because it isn’t just the food: the love and kindness that comes with it are helping me so much. When you live entirely alone, you don’t feel strong enough to demand help or company and this is where people fall through the cracks”

However, as we are seeking to scale this operation over time, we require access to additional kitchen space and funding for food supplies. We want to ensure people in food poverty across all age ranges have access to hot meals.

What Next?

We are deeply grateful to all the volunteers, partners, and donors at each level of our supply chain. Their kindness has enabled us to reach those who need help the most.

But demand is growing as the effects of the pandemic, lockdown, and economic downturn get worse. We don’t want to turn down anyone in need, and that means we need to increase our capacity.  

We are looking to get more partners on board, to help us ensure Oxford continues to come together to keep everyone supported and healthy during this unprecedented crisis. We are working on partnering with more schools, building relationships with more restaurants and food suppliers, and further developing a supportive network. 

If you are interested in getting involved, please do get in touch. These are difficult times, but if we come together, we know we can  significantly reduce food insecurity in Oxford.