Oxford Mutual Aid is appealing for help to continue its valuable work providing free meals and emergency food parcels to people across Oxfordshire.
The Oxford community support group, and its Kitchen Collective, has been run by volunteers since the first UK lockdown in March 2020.
“50 households are still on our waiting list. The situation is urgent, and we want to increase capacity as soon as possible”
Over Christmas, Oxford Mutual Aid (OMA) stepped up their operations to reach even more people, but now needs help to cope with a big surge in demand.
Muireann Meehan Speed from Oxford Mutual Aid said: “We have had 207 requests since October to join our waiting list for regular weekly food support.
“50 households are still on our waiting list. They have all received an emergency parcel, but we cannot currently add them to our regular deliveries. The situation is urgent, and we want to increase capacity as soon as possible.”
The need for emergency food is so great that OMA now needs to lease a van to make more deliveries, and is asking for more donations.
“To remain sustainable, we need to get to a point where monthly pledged donations are enough to meet our monthly budget,” Muireann says.
OMA began in response to the pandemic, and its volunteers work every day to ensure that Oxford residents get the support they need. “We are completely volunteer-run, and many of the people we support are also regular volunteers,” Muireann adds.
The organisation’s normal operations focus on providing parcels and reheatable meals to regular recipients, and organising emergency on-the-day food support for anyone who requests it.
Demand for these services is increasing sharply, and volunteers are now providing regular parcels of food and basic supplies to over 200 households, or 616 people, as well as making and distributing around 500 meals per week from their kitchens.
OMA’s Kitchen Collective also produced an additional 2500 meals in December through a collaboration with The Dragon School and Lady Margaret Hall
Muireann added: “OMA is the only organisation that provides emergency food support seven days a week. This means that since the autumn we have seen a sharp rise in the number of requests for parcels. These include self-referrals, referrals from GPs, social workers and other support workers, as well as referrals from Oxford City Council.
“It has required a lot of work to remain sustainable while expanding our capacity, thanks to the generous support of our regular donors, partner organisations, and our network of committed volunteers.”
Winter is a difficult time of year for many, and the pandemic has made food poverty and inequality in Oxford even worse.
Over the Christmas period, OMA provided additional food support to people being housed without cooking facilities by Oxford City Council’s housing services. OMA’s Kitchen Collective also produced an additional 2500 meals in December through a collaboration with The Dragon School and Lady Margaret Hall.
Muireann added: “Over Christmas the feedback we got from the households we supported expressed concerns over being able to afford food, fuel and presents.
“We ran a massive present drive and provided gifts to over 500 of our contacts. We also signposted a large number of our contacts to the Warm Home Discount Scheme and to Citizens Advice for fuel support.”
If you can help Oxford Mutual Aid with a donation, or by volunteering, here are the links:
Anyone who wants to help can do so at https://opencollective.com/oxford-mutual-aid#section-contribute
If you would like to join OMA as a volunteer, please visit www.oxfordmutualaid.org/volunteer