By Hannah Fenton

MAKING ends meet is difficult. In Oxford it’s even harder, with many reports putting our city at the very bottom of national affordability lists.

You don’t get a bill through the door every month saying ‘you haven’t eaten well enough this month’, so for many people, food is the thing that has to give.

Whether that’s picking up something filling and unhealthy (unhealthy food is a three times cheaper source of calories than healthy food), or simply having to skip meals or go without, we estimate that between one in ten and one in five people in Oxford have to make that decision for themselves or their families.

And that’s not good enough, as a report we published this month shows.

READ MORE: Oxford Living Wage: Healthy eating difficult for those paid less

The ability to choose healthy food (if you want to, of course) is a basic human right, and one we should be fighting for in Oxford.

Addressing this huge issue is not simply about making sure people have enough to eat. More important is working to ensure people’s incomes are high enough to be able to afford to choose good healthy food.

At Good Food Oxford, we believe in fair pay which relates to actual living costs.

Oxford Mail:

Which is why, when the new financial year brought the government’s National Living Wage up to £8.21 per hour for over-25s, we launched our report on the Real Living Wage and its impact on employees and employers in Oxford.

In the report, we compared the affordability of a healthy balanced diet when living in Oxford on three different wages; the government’s National Living Wage (£8.21 per hour for over-25s), the Real Living Wage (£9.00 per hour for over-18s) and the Oxford Living Wage (£10.02 per hour for over-18s).

In Oxford, we found that those on a low income would really struggle to afford a fully balanced diet, as recommended by the government’s Eatwell Guide.

A single person in Oxford is likely to suffer a food budget deficit of approximately £15 a week on the government’s National Living Wage, £10 on the Real Living Wage, or £5 on the Oxford Living Wage.

Oxford Mail:

In order to make up the shortfall, they would have to take money out of their social and cultural budget, leaving them with approximately £11 a week on the Government’s National Living Wage, £24 a week on the Real Living Wage, and a slightly healthier £33 a week on the Oxford Living Wage. Anyone who’s ever been to the cinema knows that’s about the minimum you need to be able to actually enjoy life.

The Oxford Living Wage really is the minimum.

Some Oxford employers may say that their costs are also high and paying that kind of wage to everyone would be impossible. But some are already paying a minimum of £9 or even £10.02 per hour, and some of those are big players in the city.

So in the report, we also looked at the benefits of paying the Real Living Wage, through snapshots from 25 interviews with employees and employers from accredited Real Living Wage organisations in Oxford.

And what is clear to them, is that there are huge benefits to paying a Real Living Wage – greater employee wellbeing, higher workplace productivity, better quality recruitment, and longer retention of employees.

So, I call on all employers in Oxford to start a conversation with the Living Wage Foundation and the City Council, and ask them to demonstrate to you the benefits of becoming Real Living Wage accredited.

And I ask all those employed in Oxford, whether on a low or high income, to call on their employer to get accredited.

The full Living Wage report is available at

For more information about becoming Real Living Wage accredited, visit

Hannah Fenton is the Manager of Good Food Oxford