Food insecurity has recently been brought into the public eye, as Marcus Rashford asked the government to continue its free school meal replacement programme into the summer holidays.
After initially refusing, the government has now said that they will continue the programme, and this is fantastic news. However, the voucher system which has been used so far has been insufficient or ineffective for many households in Oxfordshire and across the country. OMA is helping to fill the gaps in service provision, and supporting families facing food insecurity in our community.
Luke, a teacher and OMA volunteer, has written about our efforts to reduce food insecurity in Oxford, particularly through the Kitchen Collective.
What is the Kitchen Collective?
The Kitchen Collective is an ambitious initiative to deliver hundreds of free, chef-prepared and nutritious meals to households across Oxfordshire each week. This project seeks to support those who have less of an ability to cook for themselves and ensures that these people are not limited by environmental circumstances beyond their control.
This is particularly the case for those who live in sheltered accommodation, are elderly or just do not have access to kitchen facilities to be able to prepare their own meals. This support comes alongside OMA’s other support including food parcels and, most importantly, is free to all to access in need.
As a teacher, while my focus is always on educational inequality, that awareness has now broadened to issues of food insecurity in our community. Whilst trying to support my students remotely, it has given me great peace of mind to see that the Kitchen Collective project is helping provide the nutrition and sustenance needed for children to be able to learn effectively. I am also grateful that they can look forward to these meals knowing they are being cared for and supported.
The idea for Kitchen Collective grew in response to the withdrawal of hot food services locally, and then expanded to become its very own service. It began as a small initiative to deliver meals to those in sheltered accommodation, and initially saw the delivery of over 300 meals across Tuesdays and Fridays. Over the past 6 weeks, capacity at the Kitchen Collective Project has more than doubled, and we now provide over 700 meals per week!
How does the Project work?
OMA has joined forces with a number of fantastic other organisations, including Oxford colleges and restaurants, who have kindly agreed to prepare delicious and filling meals on a weekly basis. These are then delivered to a network of people across our community by volunteers.
For example, the brilliant Cherwell Boathouse prepares over 70 meals for delivery on a Thursday, and the joint efforts of St Anne’s and University College see over 180 meals prepared and delivered on Tuesdays and Fridays. Our volunteer chef Sara Hallas also prepares an astounding 200 meals at the King’s Centre on a Wednesday. This means that across our community, the Kitchen Collective is providing much needed food security, helping people receive a meal that has been lovingly prepared just for them.
We also ensure that these meals meet dietary requirements and provide a selection of vegetarian and non-vegetarian options. Whatever a person’s individual needs, the Kitchen Collective project does its best to meet them!
Who do OMA support?
OMA supports a vast range of households across Oxford, with a range of needs. So far, we have supported nearly 600 households, and deliver 700 meals per week through Kitchen Collective. Those we support include:
- Over 60 migrant families, including those referred by AFiUK and Refugee Resource.
- More than 20 households where children are in receipt of Free School Meals, from one primary school.
- Nearly 150 elderly residents, many of whom are in sheltered accommodation.
More than a third of the households we support are families with children.
How can I get involved?
The Kitchen Collective team is always looking to expand the support we give. We are on the lookout for local chefs, restaurants or businesses that would like to join us in this effort. Additionally, on the logistics side, we are looking out for additional transport capacity, especially refrigerated vans or cool boxes, so if you might be able to provide any support here, please do reach out to us!
Finally, if you have a food safety certified kitchen space that our wonderful new chefs might be able to use to prepare meals, even if this is just for one day a week, please do get in touch!
Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org