Together, this community of volunteers supports over 2,000 people a month. We are providing regular support to over 300 families, and to 37 families with new and expectant mothers. Thank you so much to everyone who has helped out.
OMA began as an emergency response to Covid-19: we wanted to support people who had nowhere else to go, and try to signpost them to organisations who could provide longer term support. But things have changed, and it’s clear we need to keep operating for the foreseeable future.
Many community larders have started charging again, and the Council has ended its emergency food support. Lots of families cannot afford these charges, and they still need help. OMA has been working hard to make itself more sustainable, so that we are ready to keep going through the Winter.
But to do that, we need your help. Starting from October, we will need to start paying rent for our distribution centre. As emergency food support ends, we will also need to start buying more food.
Regular, monthly donations would really, really help us do that. Knowing that we have £5 or £20 coming in each month from a supporter makes it much easier for us to plan our finances and commit to signing contracts.
OMA is a community led organisation. None of us get paid, and we are all working hard to make sure no one in Oxford is left behind. All over our city, there are people who need help: families who aren’t getting enough food, elderly people who aren’t able to cook for themselves, and parents who don’t have formula milk for their babies.
If you can, we would really appreciate you committing to a regular donation. If everyone reading this were to donate, Oxford Mutual Aid would be able to keep providing support for as long as people need it.
Apologies for another slightly delayed update. Things have been very busy at Oxford Mutual Aid recently, but the hard work is paying off, and we have a lot of good news to share.
What Have We Been Doing?
As we explained previously, we are trying to make OMA as sustainable as possible. That has meant a lot of organizing, form-filling, and making our daily work a bit more efficient. Thanks to some fantastic new volunteers, we are now able to support more people than ever. We have also moved our base of operations from St. Albans Hall to the Richard Benson Hall on Cowley Road, thanks to the generosity of St Mary and St John Church.
Some key highlights include:
We are sending out 120 food parcels a week, with each designed to see a family of 4 through 7 days
Our Kitchen Collective is delivering 750 meals a week, thanks to our wonderful partners, Lady Margaret Hall and the King’s Centre.
By the end of this week, the Kitchen Collective is projected to have delivered a total of 8,000 meals
This week, we will begin including reusable masks in our food parcels
As of the end of July we were supporting over 300 Oxford families
How Did We Spend Donations?
We’ve been able to reduce costs considerably over the last few months. In May, we set a budget of £3,400 a month. In June, we spent £2,070, and in July we spent £2,359. It is worth noting that of July’s expenses, a combined £998 was spent on an annual insurance policy and legal advice regarding incorporation. Our monthly running costs for July were well under £2,000.
Our weekly bulk purchases consist mainly of food, but also other necessary supplies like nappies. ‘Request Management’ refers to specific items that someone we support needs and which we do not currently have in stock.
The Case Management and Kitchen Collective teams each have their own budgets, and ‘Emergency Shop’ refers to situations where it has been necessary to shop for someone rather than supply them with food parcels. ‘Others’ includes any items not budgeted for that month, which could range from fridge thermometers to shelving.
We do not means test those who ask us for support. In order to continue offering aid to anyone who needs it, we have needed to build up relationships with other organisations to source food.
Thanks to the incredible generosity of both SOFEA and the Oxford Food Bank, we are now able to source almost all our non-perishable goods for free, which has taken a big chunk out of our costs.
Our thanks also go to Oxford City Council for providing us with a truck to collect food from the Oxford Food Bank, and to Good Food Oxford, whose online forums were instrumental in setting up this arrangement.
What Are We Doing About Incorporation?
As we said previously, Oxford Mutual Aid has grown to the size where it needs to incorporate. We were initially considering becoming a Community Interest Company, but we have since been advised that it will be easier and quicker to incorporate as a not-for-profit company limited by guarantee.
When we do incorporate, we will post our Articles of Association here. Needless to say, we will still be 100% volunteer run. We will continue to post all expenses on Open Collective, together with receipts, so you are confident your donations are being spent wisely.
We have also expanded our Oversight Committee to 7 people, to better distribute the workload. For OMA to be sustainable, we need it to be easy for volunteers to take on more or less as their circumstances change, and we are working hard to build a flexible structure.
September will be a challenging month. While the furlough scheme has been extended, schools and universities are currently scheduled to re-open as normal. As many of our volunteers are students and teachers, this means we need to train new volunteers and prepare to make any necessary adjustments to the way we operate.
Like you, we have been watching the news closely. While the UK has yet to experience a second wave, it seems sensible to anticipate an increase in Covid cases over the next few months. We are also concerned about how the colder, wetter weather of Autumn and Winter will affect the elderly and immunocompromised in our communities, and what that added strain on the NHS will mean in terms of Covid-19.
While the Autumn will be challenging, it is truly amazing how much has been accomplished by our volunteers and partner organizations. Increasingly, people from all over Oxford are coming together to work out how to protect their different communities. We are confident we can continue to support one another, whatever the next few months hold.
On the 24th August, the ban on evictions is ending. All over Oxford, the people who have kept our city going – from NHS staff to key workers to those caring for loved ones – are facing the prospect of homelessness.
Oxford is one of the UK’s most expensive cities to rent in, and it was experiencing a homelessness crisis even before the pandemic. This coming wave of evictions is predicted to make 45,000 households homeless nationally, and it is going to hit Oxford hard.
The last few months have put a crippling pressure on people’s finances, and an increasing number of Oxford families simply will not be able to pay their rent and feed themselves at the same time. In the current emergency, eviction poses a serious risk to their lives.
ACORN is a nationwide Community Union with extensive expertise in preventing evictions. The Oxford branch has been working with Oxford Mutual Aid to help those struggling with their housing situation during the pandemic.
On 1st August, ACORN will be running eviction resistance training, and Oxford Mutual Aid is encouraging anyone who is interested to attend.
The online training will take place on Saturday 1 August 4:00 – 5:30 pm, and will cover:
An introduction to the different types of eviction
The legal background to evictions
How to safely and legally prevent evictions
The training will be on an online meeting platform called Zoom – many of you are probably already familiar with it. To join the training, register on Eventbrite. You will then receive a link that allows you to register for the Zoom meeting.
After your training, you will have an opportunity to become involved in local groups – you will also be invited to access more training and support from ACORN staff.
If you’re not confident using Zoom, or need any support joining the training, give the committee a ring at 07845 636685, or send an email to email@example.com
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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:
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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!
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 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.
£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.
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
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.
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.