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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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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. 

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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.

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Holidays Without Hunger

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 kitchencollective@oxfordmutualaid.org

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Life After Lockdown

Apologies for this slightly delayed monthly update. There has been a lot of activity in the last few weeks, and we wanted to include it in this newsletter. 

Like the rest of the UK, Oxford is adjusting to what is likely to be a long period of uncertainty. Whatever measures are or are not taken in the next few weeks, though, there is still a lot of urgent work to be done to keep everyone in our communities safe. 

With your help, OMA has been making itself more sustainable. We are now planning for the difficulties posed by the lifting of restrictions, as well as the economic impact of the pandemic. 

What Are We Doing? 

We are now regularly supporting 237 households, who rely on us for food and other essential supplies. In addition, here are some recent highlights: 

  • Our Kitchen Collective is now delivering 700 reheatable meals a week. These go to Age UK and Dementia Oxfordshire clients, as well as children who would normally receive free school meals and other at-risk or food insecure households around the city and county. This is run in partnership with Cutteslowe Primary school, University College, Cherwell Boathouse, St Anne’s college, Talkington Bates, SOFEA, Oxford Food Bank and the King’s Centre, with donations from Jesus College, Wadham College and Christ Church.
  • We are working with the Oxford Homeless Movement to support 130 people in temporary accommodation.
  • We worked with a variety of organizations to help Oxford’s Muslim community during Ramadan. Our volunteers organized both the Eid Extravaganza and the Grand Iftar – during the former, 313 families received food, and on the latter, 2,200 meals were delivered in one day.
  • We now have 7 experienced case managers, who are handling 25 active cases referred to us by GPs, social workers, and charities. These can be very complex cases, ranging from domestic abuse to those living with homelessness. As ever, we do not want to replicate existing services – we focus on those who are, for whatever reason, unable to access support elsewhere.
  • Our mask-making project has produced over 700 reusable, machine-washable masks. This project was started by an NHS worker, and we are currently concentrating on providing masks to NHS staff, teachers, and care home workers, many of whom still have no PPE. We hope to increase production over the next few months.

How Did We Spend Donations?

Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of our budget goes on food. You can check the details for yourself on this platform, but in May we spent £3,820 from the general funds raised on Open Collective. 

This excludes: 

  • £1,050 free store credit from the Co-Op. 
  • Donations toward the Kitchen Collective. These are donated to and are administered by our partners, with OMA providing delivery and overall coordination. We also occasionally top up the food supply when necessary from our general funds.

As of last Monday we spent a total of £6,873.32 of the funds raised on Open Collective. You can see a breakdown below:

We formed Oxford Mutual Aid in the middle of a crisis and without any infrastructure of our own in place.Our priority was helping people who, for whatever reason, struggled to access help from other sources.Where possible, we directed people to agencies or charities who could supply them with food parcels – when it was not possible, we had to purchase food ourselves.

In the beginning, we were forced to shop for those in need on an individual basis. This is a very expensive way of operating, and as we built up our own infrastructure and developed relationships with food banks, we moved towards bulk purchases of food in order to make and distribute food parcels. 

‘Mixed Shops’ refers to receipts for shops that included both food and other supplies, e.g. medicine. ‘Projects’ indicates money spent on specific projects, for example our Ramadan projects. ‘Accommodation’ costs were incurred when we had to rent accommodation for homeless people who were struggling to access help from other sources. ‘Other’ includes a refrigerator to let us store food, boxes for the same purpose, and a one-off donation of puzzle books to those in temporary shelter. 

Improving Cost Efficiency 

As we said in our last update, we are shifting from an emergency response to a more sustainable model. We now have a warehouse to store food and other supplies, as well as access to wholesalers for bulk buying. 

We have moved away from shopping for those in need – we have built up relationships with SOEFA, the Oxford Food Bank and other organizations, and are now concentrating on food parcels as our main method of supporting those living in food precarity. With help from other organizations, we source food and create parcels designed to see a household through 7 days.

This is much more cost efficient. A weekly shop for a family of 4 would typically cost around £30 – £50. A food parcel, designed to last a family of 4 for a week, costs around £15.

We now have a projected budget of £3,400 per month. You can see a breakdown of costs below. 

As you can see, we will spend most of our money on bulk purchases of food for food parcels and non-food, e.g. baby supplies. Case Managers, who often have to deal with emergencies, have their own budget, and the Kitchen Collective will need a little money to supplement supplies. There will inevitably be some cases where we need to buy things for people on a one-off basis, though we want to keep that to a minimum.

Needless to say, we will have to adapt to reality. Should the situation or demand change, we will need to revisit our spending plans. 

What Next?

We are coordinating closely with community groups, charities, and local government, as well as other mutual aid groups. The only thing we can be certain of is that a lot of people will need help, and that providing it is going to be harder than in the pre-Covid-19 world.

We are currently applying for grants to help us over the longer term future. We also plan to incorporate as a Community Interest Company, limited by guarantee – this would allow us to use an asset lock to reassure all donors that donations would be spent according to our aims and objectives. 

Can I Get Involved?

Yes! Last month we asked for volunteers, and we have since welcomed some amazing people into our team. A few of us will need to work for OMA full-time, but our model relies on volunteers working on a rota, and so we will always be on the lookout for people who can commit some time.

At the moment, we are particularly keen to find:

  • Drivers who can deliver our Kitchen Collective meals on a regular basis. If you have access to a refrigerated van or cooler boxes, that would be ideal. The shifts are as follows
  • Monday: 2PM – 6PM
  • Tuesday 11AM – 4PM
  • Wednesday 2PM – 6PM
  • Thursday 2PM – 6PM
  • Friday 12PM – 5PM
  • People with experience in storage, stocktaking, distribution and logistics. 
  • People with administrative and data management experience.
  • Chefs with a food and safety hygiene certification

Final Thoughts 

Obviously, this is a confusing and frightening time. As the months pass, compassion fatigue will become more and more of an issue, especially as the continuing uncertainty takes its toll.

We hope it heartens you to think of the hard work being done by fantastic groups all over Oxford. There are plenty of news stories about how the pandemic has brought out the worst in some – it is easy to forget that it has brought out the best in others.

As we have said before, many OMA volunteers also receive aid from the organisation. Collectively, we are all worried about the same things: health, money, our families, and what the future might look like.

All we can do is concentrate on the job that is in front of us. If Oxford comes together, there is no reason why we cannot ensure one another’s well-being over the coming months.

As ever, if you or a loved one are in difficulty, we are only a telephone call away. 

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Making Masks for Front Line Workers

With PPE shortages still a major issue, we are pleased to announce our new mask making project. So far, the community has produced more than 700 masks which are then collected, sanitised, packed, and checked before being sent out to those in need.

OMA has received a lot of requests for PPE, and so far our priority has been sending masks to NHS workers, care home staff, teachers, front line refugee workers and also to vulnerable/shielding households.

The masks we have produced are machine washable and safely reusable. We have also made and distributed 200 ear strap extenders to help mask recipients work long hours in PPE more comfortably.

The project was started by Nazan, an NHS worker with direct experience of the worrying lack of safety provisions for at risk employees, and whose colleagues have been deeply grateful for the support. The masks are in very high demand at the John Radcliffe as, although workers are now supplied with factory-made masks when working in wards, they don’t all have masks for going to and from work or for work outside the wards.

It has been amazing to see the positive impact on the local community; the teachers we have delivered to have given special thanks for the masks, with one saying “We can’t thank you enough, it looks like a lot of sewing was involved and they are certainly preferable to the paper versions as they are soft on the face.”

Another teacher let us know of the great reassurance the masks provided for both the teachers and students’ families, saying that the safer environment has “brought smiles to many faces.”

OMA has also been involved in ensuring the safety of the recent Black Lives Matter demonstrations, with volunteers present at the protests to hand out masks to those involved. We are proud to say the project has also extended beyond Oxford with masks now being sent out to the refugee camps in Calais. So far 100 masks have been sent to both Care4Calais and the Refugee Community Kitchen to ensure the safety of refugees and those helping on the front line of the crisis.

We want to thank all the volunteers working to make and distribute these masks.This crisis has made it clear that the best way to keep yourself safe is to help keep everyone else safe too. We think this project is an example of how the community can come together to do just that.

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Covid-19 and Homelessness

The pandemic has driven some problems out of sight. We are used to seeing homeless people in Oxford, but during the lockdown, it is a reality most of us no longer need to confront on a daily basis.

The truth is that few groups have been hit as hard as those without a home. For anyone without permanent shelter, Covid-19 has been a terrifying ordeal

Why is Homelessness Such a Problem?

Even before the pandemic, many people in Oxford were without a home. The city is a hub for services many homeless people rely on, but funding cuts have reduced the ability of charities and community groups trying to get help to those who need it. With less help available, more people are forced to sleep rough.

This is part of a national trend. In 2019, it was estimated that there had been a 23% increase in the number of homeless households since 2018.

Oxford is also a notoriously expensive city to rent in, which greatly exacerbates the problem. A recent study ranked Oxford as the the 3rd most expensive city in the UK in terms of rent. On average people in Oxford spend 32% of their salary simply to keep a roof over their heads.

The stigma around homelessness masks a grim reality: it is very, very easy to end up sleeping rough. In 2018, an ING survey found that around 27% of British households had no emergency savings. For many of us, even those who may feel secure, it only takes a run of bad luck for homelessness to become a real possibility.

Homelessness During Covid-19

This has been a very frightening time for homeless people. Organisations many rely on have had to re-think the way they operate, while various charities have had to shut down entirely.

Obviously, homeless people are at a greater risk of catching Covid-19. But there are knock-on effects beyond this. For those lucky enough to have found somewhere to stay, there are still the issues of food, medicine, and other necessary supplies.

To make matters worse, the lockdown has itself caused an explosion in youth homelessness. It is also likely that the situation is about to get much worse.

Currently, there is a moratorium on evictions. However, this will end in June, and the government has not confirmed whether or not the moratorium will be extended. If it is not, with at least 2 million people now unemployed, many more people will find themselves without a home.

What Have We Been Doing?

There are many fantastic organisations who work on homeless issues in Oxford. We have been working with many of them to deal with the challenges posed by Covid-19.

  • We are working with the Oxford Homeless Movement to support 130 people in temporary accommodation and have provided toiletries, books, clothing, puzzle books, and tea and coffee supplies.
  • We are providing weekly deliveries of fruit to the Gatehouse for distribution among the vulnerably housed.
  • Our Kitchen Collective is making twice weekly deliveries of re-heatable meals to people temporarily housed in the Lismore Hotel in Banbury.
  • We have provided the Mayday Trust and Response with toiletries, cleanings supplies, face masks, DVDs and books for those in supported accommodation.
  • OxWash is laundering bedding, which we then distribute to various organizations. We are also providing these organizations with clothes for the precariously housed.
  • We have found emergency short term accommodation for 12 homeless people who were unable to access elsewhere

What Next?

We are hoping to start making care packages for homeless people and the precariously housed. In addition, we want to be able to offer sun hats and reusable water bottles in preparation for the Summer heat.

If you’d like to get involved, we are always looking for new volunteers – you can also donate, and help us source the supplies we need.


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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.

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Eid Mubarak!

Tomorrow is Eid, and as Ramadan draws to a close, it’s time for us to say thank you to everyone who has been working to help people celebrate despite the lockdown. The Muslim community is a huge part of Oxford life, and of Oxford Mutual Aid as well, and we hope everyone has a fantastic Eid. 

What is Ramadan?

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, during which many Muslims observe a fast from sunrise to sunset. It is a time of reflection and prayer, but it is also very important to community life. Each night, people break their fast with a meal called an iftar, usually starting with dates.

The iftar is often a communal event, and during the evenings it’s common to see many people coming together to eat and celebrate. The last day of Ramadan is marked by Eid-ul Fitr, commonly known as Eid, and it is one of the two most important Islamic holidays.

In other words, Ramadan is a big deal. Like Christmas or Passover, it binds families and communities together. 

Ramadan 2020

It’s hard to celebrate as a community when you can’t leave the house. As soon as everyone began to realize how long lockdown would last, it was clear we would need to think creatively to help people observe Ramadan this year. 

There are many fantastic community groups in Oxford who have been doing just that, and we are very proud to have worked with them over the last month.They include the Oxford Homeless Project, Oxford Community Action, Syrian Sisters, Iraqi Women Art and War Community Group, Oxford Eid Extravaganza, and BAPs Oxford.

What Have We Been Doing?

Nabila Qureshi has been helping to lead our Ramadan projects at OMA, and she has been working with the Syrian Sisters, Oxford Community Action and the Oxford Homeless Project to ensure that people are supported as they can be during lockdown. A key focus has been making sure people have access to halal meals. 

Ramadan Homecook Programme

OMA been offering support to some of our most vulnerable Muslim families by providing them with home cooked meals made by OMA volunteers, with all meals being both Halal and nut-free. Volunteers cook for between 10-30 people one day a week and recipients receive food at least twice a week. OMA provides reheatable packaging and food supplies, and distributes between 150 – 200 meals a week. 

The Grand Iftar

Each year, the Muslim community in Oxford organizes a Grand Iftar. It is a hugely important event, and it was clear that organizing it during a pandemic was going to be challenging. 

This year, Oxford Mutual Aid worked together with the Oxford Homeless Project, Oxford Community Action, BAPs Oxford and Oxford City Council to prepare and distribute over 2,200 meals.

Doing this all safely involved a lot of careful planning. Logan Hamilton was the OMA project lead, and she mapped out a plan to transform the East Oxford Community Centre into a food preparation and distribution centre that would adhere to social distancing.

Around 300 of the meals went to the Porch and other homeless people in and around Oxford. The rest were distributed by a fleet of drivers that had to be timed with great precision. With over 500 stops to get through, it would not have been possible without these volunteer drivers giving up their entire day.

Eid Extravaganza 

OMA is again teaming up with a number of groups around Oxford to celebrate Eid. Working with Oxford Homeless Project, Oxford Eid Extravaganza, Populate, Oxfordshire Kindness Wave, Oxford Community Action, Oxford City Council, Iraqi Women Art and War, Dementia Oxfordshire and Nemesis, OMA will deliver Eid Treats to thousands of people around the city and county. 

These parcels are filled with sweets, cakes, baklavas, biscuits and much more, much of which has been kindly donated by local businesses. There will be over 650 stops this weekend, so we want to highlight the amazing work of our volunteer drivers again. 

What Next?

We are incredibly grateful to all the people and groups who have worked with us over Ramadan, and we know we will all be working together closely in the months to come. This is a strange and unsettled time, but we will get through it together. We are always looking for new volunteers and new partnerships, so please don’t hesitate to get in touch.