HUNDREDS more vulnerable people will get fresh food every day after a charity struck a deal with a fruit and vegetable company.

The Oxford Food Bank, run by charity Replenish, launch-ed in October and was soon handing out about £500 worth of food each week to charities, organisations and shelters in the city.

Nine months later, it is distributing about £4,000-worth of goods a week – and expects to grow even bigger.

Now it has agreed a deal with Bicester firm Fresh Direct, which will now hand over food which is perfectly fresh, but can no longer be sold.

Joint coordinator of Replenish David Cairns said the contribution had allowed the charity to double its daily deliveries.

He said: “It is a brilliant gesture and we are very grateful for it.

“We help a complete range of people and the numbers are increasing all the time. The charities make great use of the food, which enormously benefits the health of those who eat it.

“We help about 15 organisations in Oxford, but estimate there are about 45 who could benefit from food deliveries.”

His fellow coordinator, Robin Aitken, added: “The food collected on a daily basis is of high quality and great variety.”

The food, which is past its sell-by date but within its use-by date, is sorted before being distributed by volunteers.

Mental health centre The Mill, in Cowley Road, Donnington Doorstep, Lucy Faithfull House, and Oxford Soup Kitchen all benefit.

Fresh Direct commercial director Mike Hirons said: “I approached the charity after looking at how we could better use our surplus food.

“There is nothing wrong with it at all, it just may not be exactly what the customer is after. It is a win-win for everyone with this new arrangement.”

An estimated 1.6 million tonnes of food is dumped in landfill every year in the UK.

The Lord Lieutenant of Oxfordshire Tim Stevenson toured Replenish’s Botley distribution centre on Friday.

He said: “Part of my role is to bring together different segments of the community, in particular volunteering and business.

“When I come across a project that seems to have legs, it is exactly what I’m about – to give it support and encouragement.”

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