How Can We Keep Our Food System in Good Health?


How Can We Keep Our Food System in Good Health?

23 Mar 2020

The world has changed rapidly over the past weeks due to the outbreak of the respiratory disease COVID-19, caused by the new coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. As people everywhere are restructuring their lives, many are struggling to access food while small food producers, food businesses and community groups are also affected in various ways, some challenging, other more inspiring and hopeful.

Food Access Services in Oxfordshire

We have updated the Oxford Food Access Database and Map to cover all of Oxfordshire, and are trying to keep it up to date with new services being added constantly. For instance, SOFEA are currently in the process of scaling up the Community Larder programme across 12 locations in Oxfordshire. If you are offering, or know of, a food service such as a community fridge, foodbank or other service that is missing from the map, please add it. We are calling on everyone to share this map widely and help us keep it up to date.

Screenshot of google map
The Oxfordshire Food Access Services Database and Map reflect the current situation only with a time lag, as projects are having to close or change opening times and new initiatives being launched all the time. We need everyone's help in contributing to the map via the sign-up form for new services or by mailing us.

At this time, foodbanks are primarily in need of more food donations – if you run a business that has surplus due to closure or declining demand, do use the map to find places where this food is needed. Any anti-viral cleaning products and spirits over 70% alcohol that can be used as disinfectants can also be donated for use by charities and community groups. Please contact each service to find out the latest information before going for donations or pickups.

Use the hashtag #OxFoodShare on social media to highlight current needs and offers around food distribution across Oxfordshire.

Volunteers giving out food parcels at the Botley "virtual" community fridge. Check Facebook for current timings.

Support Our Local Food Economy

For hospitality enterprises, these are difficult and scary times indeed. While the government will now allow restaurants and pubs to operate as hot food take-aways, most are still hit very hard by loss and lack of insurance cover under the current situation.

This is a time for small businesses to think creatively about how their services can be tailored to this unusual situation and contribute to keeping people fed. Some great examples are mentioned on the Bitten Oxford blog. Independent Oxford have come up with five great ideas for things we can all do to support local businesses, including buying vouchers instead of eating out and shopping online from local producers and local food delivery services. And the Oxford Mail calls businesses that want to be featured in #StillOpenInOxfordshire campaign to promote local businesses that are still open to get in touch.

On the more hopeful side, small local farms and veg box schemes are now seeing unprecendented demand for locally grown and organic food. Shops, restaurants and community groups are rapidly adjusting to new hygiene and safety standards, and they are inventing new forms of food delivery to those who are isolated at home. All of them are working with incredible dedication to keep Oxfordshire fed and healthy – we are grateful and proud of their efforts.

The limiting factor for these businesses is now the supply of locally grown food – the crisis falls into the hungry gap, but it also shows once more the urgent need for making more land available in Oxfordshire for food production, and for making farm livelihoods more viable and attractive so more people start growing food.

Open Food Network logo

If you are looking for new ways of organising online orders and deliveries for your food business efficiently, take a look at the open source sales software from Open Food Network UK.

Get Involved with Community Action

With all the uncertainty around what tomorrow will bring, it is more important than ever for all of us to support each other and collaborate. It is heartening to see neighbours and communities everywhere getting together to find creative solutions, and many of the groups in the network of Community Action Groups Oxfordshire (CAGs) are coming up with new ways to respond more creatively, work more collaboratively, and adapt more effectively especially to help those who are vulnerable and need more support.

Some community gardens in Oxford are staying open, for instance OxGrow have put in place new rules around social distancing and keeping tools disinfected so people – in limited numbers at a time – can stay safe while getting the essential fresh air and vegetables. You can find more community gardens on this map, just remember to contact them about Covid-19 updates before going.

Now is also a good time to start planting some seeds for better times: OxGrow are giving away plants, seeds and freshly harvested herbs and kale to take home while educating visitors about growing food at home.

Oxford Together

If you’re in Oxford, the Oxford Hub is coordinating the initiative ‘Oxford Together’, where you can sign up to be a community champion and help with the Coronavirus response on this formRead more about the join initiative by Oxford City Council and the Oxford Hub.

COVID19 mutual

The new online portal Covid-19 Mutual Aid has a list of autonomous, self-organised local groups who have . Groups have their own local priorities and focus, and new groups are being added all the time. Oxford Mutual Aid has a group here and you can sign up through this form.

Stay well and safe, follow the public health guidelines, and keep in touch with your stories on social media @goodfoodoxford

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