AN OXFORD pensioner who has been feeding the city's most vulnerable for almost three decades is set to receive recognition for her hard work on national TV.

Icolyn 'Ma' Smith met the Prime Minister yesterday ahead of picking up a Pride of Britain award at a star-studded ceremony in London.

Guests included Prince Charles, Simon Cowell and members of the England football team, and it will be broadcast to millions of viewers on ITV next week.

The 87-year-old, who has run a soup kitchen off Cowley Road for 29 years, was one of just 11 individuals and groups honoured at the awards, which celebrate the achievements of 'truly remarkable people who make our world a better place'.

Mrs Smith, affectionately known as Ma Smith, founded the Oxford Community Soup Kitchen in 1989 after seeing a teenage boy rummaging through bins for food.

She said: "That day I went home, got my pots and pans and started cooking. I knew I had to do something for him and others like him.

"I rang round places until I found somewhere to hold a soup kitchen and I haven't stopped since."

From the Asian Cultural Centre off Manzil Way in East Oxford, the pensioner now feeds a three-course meal to between 40 and 50 homeless men and women twice a week - including a special Christmas meal.

Despite her years of tireless work to keep the soup kitchen, which has faced closure several times, running the pensioner said she was 'very surprised' when her son Gary told her she had been chosen for the TSB Community Partner award.

She said: "I couldn't believe it. It doesn't feel like I am doing something special, just what needs to be done."

Mr Smith, 51, who also volunteers at the soup kitchen, said: "I knew for about four weeks before my mum because the Pride of Britain people wanted it to be a surprise.

"It was really difficult not to say anything."

He said his mum was 'overwhelmed' adding: "She doesn't understand why they are choosing her and keeps saying 'I just cook'.

"In some ways it is completely natural, she's been helping people her whole life and even as a child she would make food for her teachers and bring it to school.

"When I was young I would come home and find people in the house she was feeding because they needed help."

The award is not the first time the mother-of-five has been recognised for her soup kitchen, which is now charity The Icolyn Smith Foundation.

In 1998 the former carer was made an MBE for services to disadvantaged people and in 2012 received £11,500 funding through the Channel 4 programme The Secret Millionaire.

She also received a Queen's Award for Voluntary Service in 2016.

Mrs Smith explained her need to help others stemmed from her upbringing in rural Jamaica, which she left in 1965 to join her husband Eric, who had a job at the Atomic Energy Establishment at Harwell.

She said: "My parents were farmers and it was hard work, but it was a small community and everyone looked after each other.

"It's just how things are done there so I brought that with me to Oxford."

The great-grandmother added she was never tempted to slow down, saying: "What would I do if I retired? I'd have to find something else to fill my time, it's a part of me.

"It is nice to win the award but it won't change anything. I'll continue to do what I do - cook."

Ma Smith and her family travelled to London on Sunday ahead of a winner's dinner in the evening.

Yesterday the pensioner, along with the other Pride of Britain recipients, met with Prime Minister Theresa May before receiving her award at a ceremony hosted by Carol Vorderman, which will be broadcast on ITV on November 6.

Other winners include the British divers who risked their lives to rescue a group of Thai boys trapped deep underground in flooded caves.