Food Bank expands to tackle hunger battle

Robin Aitken and volunteers Phil Harriss and Chaka Artwell in the new warehouse

Robin Aitken and volunteers Phil Harriss and Chaka Artwell in the new warehouse Buy this photo

First published in News Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter covering Abingdon and Wantage, South Oxford and Kennington. Call me on 01865 425431

A PROJECT that provides food for the homeless is delivering 900 meals a day, 10 times more than when it opened three years ago.

The Oxford Food Bank has moved to bigger premises as the demand for its service continues to grow.

When it opened in October 2009, the food bank handed out about £400 worth of food each week, fewer than 90 meals a day.

It now delivers around 900 of them – roughly £15,000 worth of food that is past its sell-by date but within its use-by date – to homeless shelters and other people in need.

Last week it moved to a new warehouse, which is eight times the size of its first home.

The charity’s previous warehouse in Lamarsh Road was 90 square metres but its new home, at the former Habitat site beneath Seacourt Tower on Botley Road, is around 700 square metres.

The food bank’s co-director Robin Aitken said: “The new place is huge. We are expanding all the time.”

Donnington Doorstep family centre cooks food for around 50 people a day, with 80 per cent of its produce coming from the food bank.

Families pay a small contribution if they are able. Youth services manager Marie Nolan said: “It is absolutely fantastic.

“We also run youth clubs, so it means we have a lot of fresh fruit and snacks for the young people.

“I don’t know what we would do without them.”

The food bank found its new home just two weeks ago with help from Healthy Planet, which requisitions disused buildings for other charities.

Healthy Planet’s project co-ordinator David Sharman said: “The Oxford Food Bank keeps about 1.5 tonnes of food from going to landfill every week, and it is that type of activity we try to champion, so it seemed like a perfect fit.”

Every year the food bank delivers £1.5m worth of unwanted groceries from Sainsbury’s in Kidlington, Tesco in Cowley, Chef Direct in Didcot, Fresh Direct in Bicester, Booker cash and carry in Osney Mead and Roots of Oxford, also in Osney Mead.

Each year it spends £15,000 on fuel and maintenance costs – no-one is paid.

It gives food to the Salvation Army, Oxford Community Emergency Foodbank (CEF), Open Door, Emmaus, Elder Stubbs, Oxfordshire Mind, Donnington Doorstep and The Porch.

It is now also delivering to three new Sure Start children’s centres and the Foyer in Abingdon.

In April this year, the charitable arm of the Oxford Mail’s parent company, Gannett, donated a walk-in refrigerator to the food bank, which it has taken to its new home.

Co-founder and chairman David Cairns said the fridge, was “at the heart of our operation”.

The Oxford Food Bank was officially launched by charity Re-plenish in October 2009.

Its first headquarters in Lamarsh Road were formerly Oxonian Rewley Press, and were donated rent-free by city businessman Pete Mills.

Mr Mills now hopes to re-develop the building into flats.

More than 1.6 million tonnes of waste food is dumped in UK landfill sites every year.

For more information about the food bank, visit oxfordfoodbank.co.uk or email dhearn@oxfordmail.co.uk

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