Food bank handouts go direct to families

Oxford Mail: Ce’Nedra Gayle and her son, 21-month-old Javiah Buy this photo » Ce’Nedra Gayle and her son, 21-month-old Javiah

A CHARITY food bank that hands out hundreds of meals a day in Oxford has started delivering directly to families.

The Oxford Food Bank, a charity run by volunteers, has started handing out food to people in need at local community centres.

It previously delivered to local charities to redistribute its donations.

The new arrangement is a partnership with Oxfordshire County Council’s social workers, who now help connect the food bank with families who are known to be in need.

The Oxford Food Bank was at Rose Hill Community Centre on The Oval last week with supplies including fresh fruit, vegetables and Innocent smoothies.

Mum Ce’Nedra Gayle said the handout meant a lot to her and her 21-month-old son Javiah.

The 21-year-old from Rose Hill said: “It is a really good idea. For me, it was Christmas. I have to spend a lot of money on food, but it meant I could spend a bit more on my son for Christmas, which sounds shallow but it was nice to be able to do that.

“And with benefits tightening for more than two children it will be even more important. I only have one son so that doesn’t affect me but it is hugely important for other people.”

Katie Morton, 28, from East Oxford, said it meant she could fill her kitchen cupboards that are usually half empty.

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She said: “It is wonderful. When you go shopping you can’t buy that much, but here you can fill your cupboards up. And it makes the kids happy and blessed. They search in the bags to see what we’ve got. I have a £40 limit a week for shopping and it’s just going to be even harder now with the change in benefits.”

Oxford-based family support worker Leanne Manning is helping the food bank launch into communities.

She said: “It is fantastic. I know they used to drop off at Holy Trinity Church on Quarry Road in East Oxford and other places. “But little things like paying the bus fare there was difficult and putting people off.

“It will probably become a very regular thing in communities like Barton, Blackbird Leys, Wood Farm and here at Rose Hill. “And this is good, fresh food which is really quite expensive. It is much cheaper for families to go to Iceland and buy frozen food but this is much better.”

Robin Aitken, co-director of the Oxford Food Bank and a former BBC journalist, said: “It means a great deal. This food is now going directly to the families who need it most. We have ample supply of good, fresh food so we have asked the social services to work with us to get it to people in genuine need.”

  • The six-fold increase in food banks in the last three years was raised as an issue in Prime Minister’s Question Time before the Christmas break.

On being asked by Labour leader Ed Miliband if this concerned him, Prime Minister David Cameron replied the food bank volunteers were part of his big society.

Mr Miliband replied: “I never thought that the big society was about feeding hungry children in Britain.”

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  • The Community Emergency Food Bank at St Francis Church in Hollow Way, Oxford, has been handing out non-perishable food for five years. This year it has fed an average of 180 people each month, and around 50 per cent of those are now families.
  • The Bicester Food Bank has seen a similar increase in families coming in for help. In 2010-11, it served just over 800 people. In 2011-12 they served over 1000, and since April this year they have already helped over 1,000 people, with five months still to cater for.
  • The West Oxfordshire Food Bank, based at a church in Hailey Road, Witney, started in March this year. It now hands out between seven and nine parcels a week. Each parcel contains three days’ worth of food, for up to eight people, depending on the need.

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