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Being part of Oxford Mutual Aid

Oxford Mutual Aid is entirely volunteer run. This project is all about helping each other, and we are committed to being grounded in the communities we work in. Many of our volunteers also receive support, and many people we support go on to volunteer.

Cherwell Larder and Kitchen Collective volunteer Mona works hard to help bring good food to her community in Kidlington and Oxford.

Mona began participating in mutual aid after using Cherwell Larder herself. “We’d received some pizza bases in our delivery and there were a lot of fresh tomatoes that needed cooking,” Mona told me. “My youngest child, who is just eight, had lots of fun making a tomato sauce and choosing fresh toppings for his pizza. It was such a delight to watch that I took photos and sent them to Doctor Emily [Emily Connally, who leads the larder] to thank her for the goods.”

“Every delivery (very much anticipated by my children) made us think about the food we eat, from how we cook it to how we avoid wasting it. We started posting creative meal ideas on Facebook in the hope that people would benefit from some new creative cooking meals. Some nutritious and wholesome miracles can be made with a handful of fresh vegetables, spaghetti, and fruit. One of our members posted a fabulous mango salsa which I thought was a brilliant idea. This kind of connection on social media is motivating, educational and a boost for our mental health. I believe that creative cooking and healthy eating are vital to our wellbeing in so many ways.”

“I see the deliveries as care packages, not just the contents but the selflessness and dedication that goes into every single box. People from all over our communities are lending a hand and Covid -19 has brought us back together for all the right reasons.”

Mona’s kitchen, The Climitarian Kitchen, are launching their cafe on 2nd October. They plan to run cooking courses starting in November, with professional chefs teaching classes every week. To learn more about Mona’s work and cooking, visit her blog.

As many people go back to work and university, we are finding it more difficult to recruit volunteers. If you can help, even if it’s just for a couple of hours per week after work, please visit our volunteering page or send an email to volunteering@oxfordmutualaid.org. There are opportunities to get involved with a wide range of activities, from packing food parcels to grant writing. Join in to become part of a network of organisers, learn new skills, and help your community help itself.

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We’ve moved!

As of Sunday 6th July, Oxford Mutual Aid have moved into a new hall! Thanks to the generosity of Phil Ritchie and the Cowley St John’s community, we have been operating out of St Alban’s church hall since March. We have now moved our expanding efforts into the Richard Benson Hall at St Mary and St John’s Church on the Cowley Road, near the intersection with Leopold Street. We are so grateful for this support, and the larger, more accessible hall will be invaluable in enabling us to sustain and scale up our deliveries of food and other essential items.

Our inventory at the hall currently includes: fresh fruit and veg, bread, eggs, soup, pasta, cereal, dairy and non-dairy milks, chef-prepared reheatable meals, nappies, tampons, hair products, toothpaste, a pram, a space hopper, and much more! In a larger space with more storage facilities, we can now store many more food items, clothes, baby products, and toiletries. The Oxford Period Drive are also continuing to share the space with us, as a base for their brilliant work supplying hygiene products to people across Oxford.

We were so grateful to have such a wonderful team of volunteers on the day of our big move. They worked hard and cooperatively, packing up, cleaning and clearing St Alban’s hall, and setting up the new hall’s storage before unpacking all our items, clean, tidy and organised. Thanks also go to our regular delivery volunteers, who made sure that we were able to provide food parcels and other support as usual during the move. In fact, we were also helping a member of the Oxford community move into a new home over the weekend!

We are now set up better than ever to help our community help each other. However, we desperately need more volunteer delivery drivers. If you have a car or van and can commit to a couple of hours or more per week on call, please sign up to drive with us through this form. We so appreciate all that our volunteers (many of whom also receive support) do.

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On the road

Many of Oxford Mutual Aid’s deliveries are made by neighbours, for neighbours, using their own cars and bikes, or on foot. However, it became evident pretty early on that our transport needs were growing. We are so grateful to the businesses and organisations who have helped us with the heavy lifting over the past few months.

TVR Self-Drive were the first business to connect with us. They gave us free and exclusive use of their van for 3 months, allowing us to do 2000 miles worth of food bank and larder runs and Kitchen Collective meal deliveries. Although our partnership has now come to its end, we could not have come as far as we have without their help. We now use a van generously lent to us by Talkington Bates for many of these deliveries. It has seen 160 miles per week for 6 weeks, making a real dent in our deliveries.

A real hero is RouteXL’s planning software, which is optimising 400 miles worth of deliveries per week and is absolutely invaluable for Kitchen Collective. We are so grateful that they’ve given us 2 months free access to their software.

Another one of Oxford Mutual Aid’s most important partners is Cultivate, a co-operative set up seven years ago and funded by the people of Oxford. As well as providing us with fresh, local and ethical vegetables for our food parcels and cooked meals, they lend us another van! We have only used it twice so far, but it is going to do some fantastic work with our big hall move this weekend.

Lottie, who helped Ali with Kitchen Collective meal deliveries (picture by Ali)

Tom from Oxford’s mobile cocktail bar service Shaken and Stirred joined us as a driver when the Kitchen Collective began, doing 60 miles per week delivering cooked meals all over Oxford. When Tom stepped back, Ali took over, and has been doing a brilliant job with deliveries ever since, along with Charlie, Lottie, Evie, Curtis, Mel, Steve, and many others. Joe also makes Kitchen Collective deliveries, and has gone above and beyond the job of a driver by helping coordinate the programme.

In fact, all of our drivers have showed huge commitment, sometimes doing up to 5 hours of deliveries in one go. Huge thanks go to Gareth (pictured top), one of OMA’s key volunteers, who was our first van driver, and has been a mainstay of delivery all the way through.

OMA’s transport logistics are a model of the way this organisation works at its best. The community spirit of our drivers and their creativity and versatility, combined with cooperation between local businesses and members of the community, means we can accomplish so much.

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Buy One, Give One

In collaboration with Oxford Mutual Aid, Lula’s Ethiopian and Eritrean Cuisine have launched a Buy One, Give One initiative.

Customers can buy items from Lula’s menu of delicious homemade food and make a donation towards the cost of a meal for someone in the Oxford community who is living on a low income or doesn’t have easy access to cooked food. At the moment, Lula’s offer home delivery on Wednesday and Thursday evenings.

If you can, please consider giving a bit extra to feed people who have been hit hard by COVID-19. Buy one for yourself, give one to someone else. The Oxford community is really coming together in this crisis, and initiatives like Buy One Give One are a way to show solidarity, and share a delicious meal at the same time!

How does it work?

Lula’s will keep track of the number of meals donated through Buy One Give One, and will cook a large batch of them once per week. They will then be distributed to those who have signed up for cooked food support from Oxford Mutual Aid.

How can I Buy One Give One?

Visit Lula’s website and order yourself a delicious meal!

At the moment, the Buy One Give One options for home delivery are:

You can pre-order from Lula’s for home delivery with a minimum order of £15.

If you live in: Kidlington, Summertown, Jericho, City Centre, or Botley Road, order by 5pm on Tuesday for delivery between 5 and 8pm on Wednesday

If you live in: Kidlington, Marston, Headington, St Clements, Cowley Road, or Iffley Road, order before 5pm on Wednesday for delivery between 5 and 8pm on Thursday.

For more details, see Lula’s website: https://www.lulasethiopiancuisine.co.uk/2020/06/26/launching-our-buy-one-give-one-initiative/

How can I sign up for free meals?

If you would like to sign up for free meals, please call 07310 160 595 or email kitchencollective@oxfordmutualaid.org.

Update:

As of 30th June, The Wonky Food Co. have also started a Buy One Give One initiative! Buy any of their delicious chutneys (made from food surplus) and select “yes” to “Would you like to give one half price?”. Easy!

Through donating a jar of Wonky Food’s chutney for one of Oxford Mutual Aid’s food parcels, you can reduce food insecurity and food waste at the same time.

We are so glad that more local food suppliers are helping support the community. If your business would like to get involved, please contact us on kitchencollective@oxfordmutualaid.org.