OXFORD’S most vulnerable people will have access to fresh food every day, thanks to a new food bank.
Every night, charities, shelters and community centre s will get boxes of produce delivered to their doors, which have been donated by supermarkets.
The Oxford Food Bank, officially launched yesterday by charity Re-plenish, will distribute food which is past its sell-by date, but within its use-by date, through a network of 30 volunteers.
Mental health centre the Mill, in Cowley Road; Donnington Doorstep; Lucy Faithfull House; and Oxford Soup Kitchen are among the groups which have already received deliveries during a three-month trial period.
Fruit, vegetables and baked items are the major contribution to their larders.
More than 1.6 million tonnes of waste food is dumped in UK landfill sites every year.
Robin Aitken, of Re-plenish, said: “We believe this could be the launch of something big.
“When there are people in the city going hungry, and many others without access to a good diet, it’s indefensible that good food is being thrown away.
“We want to get to a situation where no food is wasted.
“To do so we will need the active support of local supermarkets and local people.”
He added: “So far we know we have only scratched the surface of the problem, but that’s something we want to change.
“We have calculated that the food bank has so far been able to provide about 1,000 meals a week, a number which is only going to rise.”
Food is sorted at the charity’s headquarters in Lamarsh Road before being sent out.
The building, formerly Oxonian Rewley Press, has been donated rent-free by city businessman Pete Mills.
The charity could soon be providing up to 5,000 meals a week.
Pippa Hamvee, of the Donnington Doorstep centre, said the scheme was making a “real difference”.
She said: “It has really lowered the cost of our weekly shop, and increased the variety of the food we can serve.”
The scheme will cost between £50,000 and £75,000 a year to run. Some funding has already come from the Oxfordshire Waste Partnership and other grant applications have been made.
Sainsbury’s supermarket in Kidlington was the first to back the scheme and has been donating about £1,000 of food a week during the trial.
The Co-op’s Kidlington store has recently started donating food.
Sainsbury’s store manager Vince Brimble said: “Supermarkets have to abide by strict rules governing food.
“But it’s frustrating when you see perfectly good food being thrown away. You wonder what you’re doing chucking it out. The food bank helps address this problem and ensures produce goes to people who really need it.”
For more information, see re-plenish.org firstname.lastname@example.org