The Oxford Foodbank (OFB) celebrated its fifth birthday in October this year and it is a milestone worth celebrating for this unique project.

The OFB takes perfectly edible food from supermarkets and wholesalers that cannot be sold and would otherwise go to landfill or to be composted. This food is then distributed to charities around Oxfordshire that provide meals for the less fortunate in our society. It is believed to be the only foodbank in the UK that uses this community-based model.

The project was started by its two founders Robin Aitken and David Cairns, who drove their own cars every day to Sainsburys at Kidlington to pick up bread, fruit and vegetables.

This was then taken to a local park and repacked into delivery crates for five charities. In the first three months about £10,000 of food was distributed. It took about two hours per day.

Today OFB has over 100 volunteers, providing a service eight hours per day seven days per week, to more than 50 charities. It shifts more than five tonnes per week with an estimated annual commercial value of £1m operating from a rented premises.

Over the years OFB has been supported fantastically by the community of Oxford. Many fantastic organisations have donated funds to enable OFB to buy large items like vans and chillers. 78% of OFB’s running costs are met by donations from individuals.

As one donor put it, “For every £1 I give them £25 of food is delivered to those in need!”

OFB does not rely on Government for funds, nor does it levy charges, preferring to concentrate on building the OFB as a community-owned project.

“Run by the people of Oxford, for the people of Oxford, funded by the people of Oxford,” says co-founder, Robin Aitken.

This is only possible because of the efforts of its volunteers. “I love it, it’s the best thing I have ever done,” says one OFB volunteer.

Says another “It is a virtuous circle – whilst reducing this criminal waste, food is provided to those most in need”. In the future, OFB plans to employ people to enable its long-term sustainability.

The impact of OFB is exemplified by Donnington Doorstep family centre, a local charity that receives food from OFB “We have reduced our food costs by two thirds thanks to OFB deliveries.”

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