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The Crisis Isn’t Over

OMA is still working hard to meet a high level of need, and we need your help. Read on for an update on our recent activities, and how you can support us.

We are currently receiving requests for and delivering over 80 Emergency Food Parcels a Week 

Many of these are direct referrals from Oxford City Council and St Mungo’s. These are people who really do need help, and we don’t want to turn them away.

That means we really need your helpIf you’re not, please consider making a regular donation to OMA.

£20 a month is enough to supply a family in need for a month.

If you’re already a monthly donor – thank you! – or if you can’t afford to become one, please help us spread the word.


The Good News and the Bad News

It looks like Covid is under control for the moment. The bad news is that its economic effects on the most vulnerable people are getting worse. 

Many relief efforts are being scaled back. That means that people who are still in need have fewer places to go. 


While we cannot take on any more families for regular support, we remain the only emergency food service operational 7 days a week.

Unfortunately, that means we are receiving a lot of new requests, often from local government or charities. 


We do not receive additional funds to help cover emergency requests. On top of our existing commitments the extra work and expense is putting us under a real strain. 


What Are We Doing?

As of today we are providing: 

  • 323 emergency food parcels a month, going to 619 adults, 278 children, 65 babies.
  • Regular food and supply parcels to 311 households, going to 469 adults, 290 children, and 54 babies.
  • 650 Kitchen Collective meals a week to over 200 households. 

How Did We Spend Donations?

Spending was £9,246.24 in February, and £10,118.0 in March. 

For reference, the term Hall is used to include all the fridges, label makers, and other items needed to safely store and distribute food.


Budgeting

As we said in our last update, our long-term strategy is to increase monthly pledged donations. The added strain of emergency parcels makes that more urgent, but we can get there with your help.

That said, we are faced with a difficult choice. We anticipated extra costs from staffing, but the influx of emergency parcels makes it hard to set budgets.

Basically, we need to spend more, make more parcels, and move more parcels across the city at short notice, on top of our existing operation. 

We do not want to downsize our operation, but we also need to be sustainable. We will need to see how much we can increase pledged donations over May and then assess what sort of budget we can commit to.

How Can You Help?

Our focus right now is simple – we need to get enough pledged donations to let us keep doing what we’re doing.

Thank you to all of you who are already monthly donors. If you’re not, please consider making a regular donation.

£20 a month is enough to supply a family in need for a month.
If you’re already a monthly donor, or if you can’t afford to become one right now, you can still help by spreading the word. 

It would really help us out if you could send this blog post to 3 people you know in Oxford who care about supporting the community. 

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One Year On

Just over a year ago, the country went into lockdown.
Oxford Mutual Aid formed as different groups pulled together: trade unionists, LGBTQ activists, and local community organizers, to name a few.


We knew how easy it is to fall through the cracks, and we could see Covid was going to make life a lot harder. We needed to plug the gaps in the system and get people the food, supplies, and support they needed.

It has been a hard year for everyone. Many of us have lost friends and family. We love them, and we miss them. Many of us have lost our jobs and are struggling to pay our bills. 

But together, we have built something important. OMA has become one of the biggest support providers in the city and the only source of emergency food support that operates 7 days a week. 

We hope you take pride in being part of OMA. This is a unique organisation, based on neighbours helping neighbours:

“Thank you so much, that food parcel you made up for me  …Perfect!!! It shows you care. You’re a real lifeline for me.”

“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.”

“You are life savers both mentally and physically. So thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

There are challenges coming. With the furlough scheme coming to an end, life is going to get harder for a lot of families.

First though, we wanted to share what we’ve accomplished this  year:

Together, we have been able to respond to increasing requests for help. Right now, over 1,300 people across Oxford are getting support every week, including 540 children.

  • Over 250 households every week receive regular food parcels and other essentials supplies including baby products (nappies, formula, wipes), toiletries and cleaning products 
  • Several hundred cooked meals are delivered to over 150 households a week.
  • Over 250 emergency food parcels every month, to families who simply have no food, referred to us by GPs, social workers or the Council.

But there are still more people in need of support. Right now, we have a waiting list of over 100 households in need of regular food support. 

In addition, OMA is the only source of emergency food support that operates 7 days a week in Oxford city and county. This week, we will have fulfilled close to 100 on the day requests for emergency food support.

Nearly one fifth of these requests came from statutory bodies or other charities and organisations. This will quickly become unsustainable without more funds for delivery and distribution as well as for food supply. We are working very hard to maintain this essential service. 

To make sure we can maintain a reliable service to people, we are now paying two coordinators, on the Oxford Living Wage, and have costs of hiring a hall and van hire, to collect and store donations of food and supplies when they are offered. 

Three things I need to ask of you, if you can please help.

1. Please consider making a regular, monthly donation.

Monthly donations are really important for us. They let us know how much money we can expect to come in next month and the month after – relying on one-off donations makes it very hard for us to plan in advance.

It takes less than 30 seconds to set up a monthly donation of £5, and you can do it here.  

2. Volunteer!
Right now, a shortage of driving volunteers is the main reason we can’t reach those 100 households on our waiting list. If you can spare a few hours, whether regularly or on call, please get in touch. You can sign up here.

3. Spread the word.

Please spread the word about us. The more of us involved in Oxford Mutual Aid, the stronger and more effective we can be. Let people in your networks know you’re already involved, and ask them to join in this community effort too. There is strength in numbers!

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We’re still here

Although restrictions may have been lifted for some today, many people still face significant hardship. We encourage everyone to remain vigilant, to practice social distancing and to wear a mask. If you do not have a mask, join our mask making scheme and make some for yourself, your family and your community. 

Covid-19 is a deadly virus and remains so. While its instance in our communities may have reduced, it has not disappeared. The threat of a second wave is very real. 

Oxford Mutual Aid is still here to support you. We don’t plan on going anywhere. Whether you want to ask for support, to volunteer with us, or both, we are here.

We do not means-test. You do not have to meet certain criteria to qualify to get support from the OMA community. Anyone can ask for help, no matter who you are. If you say you could use help, we will believe you, and we will never pass on your details to anyone else without your permission. Getting support from us will have no effect on your residential status in the UK, or your eligibility for state aid such as benefits.

The past few months have presented a significant challenge for everyone. However, many challenges still lie ahead. Food poverty, inequality and injustice existed before the lockdown.  They were exposed during it, and only threaten to get worse in its aftermath.  

The way in which people came together to support one another has been truly astounding. It has been a humbling experience to watch people working together to save lives. The pandemic opened up possibilities for cooperation, adaptation and transformation like never before. There is no reason that we should stop supporting one another. 

The economic implications of the pandemic are devastating. We already know that some companies and institutions will be making redundancies at the end of the furlough scheme. Many people already find themselves unemployed. We can provide support with food and other essential items to provide relief, and can provide signposting for those applying for Universal Credit.

Even for people who remain employed, the way workplaces operate is changing. Now, more than ever, it’s important to join a trade union to make sure that things are fair for yourself and your colleagues. Use this tool to find out which union is right for you.

So far, the ban on evictions is still in place, and there is still funding for emergency accommodation, but these measures have only been extended until August. If you are worried about accommodation, we can help by signposting resources and organisations. As a first point of call for renters, we always suggest joining a tenants’ union, such as Acorn or Oxford Tenants’ Union. 

We can:

  • provide food support, including cooked meals
  • provide other essential items including baby products, toiletries, and masks 
  • signpost you to other services over the phone or via email
  • refer you to a food bank or larder with your permission

You could:

  • sign up through this form to be in your local WhatsApp group to connect with neighbours seeking help
  • sign up through this form to volunteer remotely, helping with admin and coordination for a few hours per week or more
  • partner with us if you run a business, organisation or community group
  • follow us on social media and join our community facebook group to keep up with what we’re doing and see callouts for help

We are a grassroots community organisation and action network. We believe that showing solidarity with others as well the fair redistribution of resources are principles that should define society. Together, we can make the choice to live that way. At Oxford Mutual Aid, we are going to keep supporting one another to make a fairer, more just and equitable world possible.