Blackbird Leys Community Larder
Blackbird Leys Community Larder is a food club distributing fresh foods from supermarkets that would otherwise have gone to waste. For a weekly fee of £3.50, anyone can become a member and pick up plenty of fresh foods, visit the cafe and access information services.
Co-ordinator Nigel Roberts explained to us how the larder came about:
“It started off as an emergency food distribution service during the pandemic, run by the city council. The level of demand was extraordinary. There were 120, 130 people turning up every Wednesday, and the volunteers were shifting almost a tonne of food every week.”
“It was clear that there was a real need for the larder, but it was a big operation for the council to keep running on an ongoing basis. I’d recently retired – and that’s when I got roped in!” laughed Nigel. “We took it on from the council and turned it into a community-led project.”
The group received a £4,000 grant through Owned by Oxford, which, along with funds from Oxford City Council, was able to cover the cost of a paid volunteer coordinator. It also went towards getting equipment for additional social activities, such as a bingo club.
“I didn’t realise how much was involved in setting up a bingo club,” explained Nigel. “I thought I just had to stand there and shout some numbers! But it’s been fantastic, and people are very serious about it – you don’t mess with people’s bingo! We’ve even been able to get some income from it, which helps fund the larder operations.”
The group wanted to create more of a social environment in the larder, so they set up a cafe where people could stop for a cup of tea or coffee and meet other residents.
“Now, rather than just turning up to get food, we get them sitting around a table so they have to talk. People are making friends. I hear them saying ‘come to bingo!’ and ‘I’ll see you tonight!’ It’s made a big difference for people. We’ve got people coming who suffer from anxiety. We used to open up early for them but now they can come at the same time as everyone else, have a cup of tea and meet other people.”
Now that the project is more established, they are starting to connect and collaborate with other local organisations.
“It’s been very encouraging to see that there are local organisations who can see the impact our project is having, who want to support it and even raise funds for it” explained Nigel. “I’d love to see it grow, and to be able to offer more activities.