Merry Christmas from OMA

For our Christmas message, we wanted to write something different. This has been a hard year, and we know a lot of you have not been able to gather with your loved ones.

We will publish another update with the monthly figures and stats later this month. For now, we just want to say thank you. 

Oxford Mutual Aid began about ten months ago. We were people from different backgrounds: LGBTQ activists, trade unionists, and people from minority ethnic and religious groups. We knew the most at-risk members of our communities were already struggling. We knew they would be hardest hit by Covid, and we wanted to protect, support and empower as many people as we could.

With your help – as volunteers, donors, and advocates – we have grown into the largest provider of emergency support in Oxford. 

We provide food and supply parcels to 204 families a week. This includes 60 households with new or expectant mothers, who need formula milk and nappies. 

The Kitchen Collective provides reheatable meals to a minimum of 136 households every week, primarily the disabled, the elderly, and those living with dementia – those without the ability to cook for themselves. In addition, we provide an additional 50 meals every week to a local organisation that supports children at risk.  Since we began, we have delivered over 20,000 meals.

All of this is in addition to emergency food support requests, most of which come from partner organisations, GPs, Social Workers, or Oxford City Council. We are currently producing 210 emergency food parcels a month. As we enter Tier 4, we are the only source of emergency food support that can deliver 7 days a week. We are regularly getting calls for up to 12 emergency parcels a day, sometimes for families of more than ten people.

We know our updates often contain a lot of dispiriting information about the scale of poverty in Oxford, but we also hope you take pride in being a part of Oxford Mutual Aid. What we have been able to accomplish together is extraordinary.

A special mention should also go to our fantastic case management team, who have helped us to safely support people in very difficult circumstances. These have included those suffering domestic violence and experiencing homelessness. While we cannot share statistics like we can with other programmes, we want to celebrate the incredible work our experienced case management volunteers have done.

It is hard, in an update like this, to make things personal. We cannot tell you individual stories, and there is a limit to what numbers can express.

But what we can say is that through your donation and volunteering, you have helped parents feed their children. You have helped mothers bring their babies into the world. You have helped us bring hot meals to isolated and elderly people, and you have helped get emergency food supplies to those suffering from homelessness.

The New Year

Hopefully, a vaccine will bring considerable relief. But this crisis isn’t over. In fact, we think it is no longer helpful to think of the fallout from Covid-19 as an acute crisis. The economic, health, and social effects will persist long after a vaccine is available.

Thousands upon thousands of families are now without breadwinners, and many businesses that provided employment have closed. Social services are still chronically underfunded, and the fact that so many public services refer people to us is a reminder that the aid infrastructure in Oxford is simply overloaded.

Over the Summer, we worked hard to turn OMA into an organisation that could handle what we thought would be a hard Winter. Over the next few months, we will work to turn OMA into an organisation that can sustain itself over the long term.

For now, we just want to say thank you for being a part of OMA. We hope that wherever you are, whether you are celebrating Christmas with family or alone, you take some joy in being part of this community and some pride in what it has accomplished.


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 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.


We need your help

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.

Supporter – £5 a month

Means enough petrol for a day’s worth of delivering food parcels to families living in food poverty

Champion – £20 a month

Means enough formula milk to last a mother and her baby for two weeks

Hero – £50 a month

Means enough containers to deliver two hundred reheatable meals to the elderly and those living with dementia


Getting Ready for Autumn

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.

What Next?

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.

Best Practice News

Protect Your Neighbours

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

We hope to see you there.


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.


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. 


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.


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:

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


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


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