Having pledged to ensure no-one goes hungry during lockdown, Oxford City Council has also been working to ensure emergency food supplies still provide a healthy diet.

Working with community groups and Oxford Brookes University, the council is running a huge operation from Rose Hill Community Centre, now serving as a depot for food parcel distribution.

Each week, the council's company Oxford Direct Services collects over 25 tonnes of food to supply emergency food parcels and community larders.

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In one week, 475 food parcels, including fresh fruit and vegetables, are distributed across the city.

It was recognised that emergency food needed to be available to those who need it, but it was also important that it provided a balanced diet, with parcels adjusted to meet different dietary needs.

Nutritionist Isabel Butler, manager of the Oxford Brookes Centre for Nutrition and Health has been providing her expert advice.

Oxford Mail:

She explained: "Oxford Brookes University was asked to support the council by providing expertise on nutritional science and also practical advice on meal planning, food types and how to adjust for different cultural and dietary needs.

"We have helped to describe how a food parcel can be built to provide the right balance of food groups.

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"This includes various staples which provide proteins, carbohydrates, fats and vitamins, as well as important fresh fruit and vegetables.

"This has led to some practical, easy to use tools for staff at the depot so that they can quickly work with the food supplies available and an individual’s needs."

Carly Roalf, manager of the Rose Hill food depot effort, explained how the council has applied this advice to the food she gets from Didcot-based food-waste organisation SOFEA, which redistributes unwanted food.

Oxford Mail:

She said: "We have worked with our main supplier, SOFEA, so that they can supply parcels which have the best balance of items possible.

"Parcels packed at SOFEA’s depot in Didcot then come to Rose Hill where staff use the toolkit provided by Oxford Brookes to further tailor them specific to the individual’s need.

"That may be supplying gluten-free products for someone with an allergy, removing too much sugary food and exchanging for higher proteins and carbohydrates for someone with diabetes, or making a parcel suitable for someone with a halal diet.”

Anyone needing support an emergency food parcel, help with collecting shopping, or other support can contact Oxford City Council on 01865 249 811 or submit an online form, available on the community assistance page.