Blackbird Leys Community Centre opens the doors to new community larder

Published: Tuesday, 5th November 2019

Oxford City Council is working with SOFEA and Food for Charities to support a new community larder project in the Leys, which will provide access to affordable healthy food and community activities.

The larder will run weekly and is led by local volunteers. It has been set up to tackle the challenges many face with living on a budget, and the isolation and stress this can cause. According to recent research by Good Food Oxford, the number of people in Oxford at risk of or experiencing food poverty is 22,861, and 6,760 of these are children.

There are over 30 different projects in Oxford to help tackle food poverty, according to the Good Food Oxford food services map. This includes projects providing free or subsidised prepared food, food banks that require a referral and open access grocery projects like the Leys Community Fridge.

Membership benefits

For a low-cost membership fee, the scheme gives members free food and helps to reduce waste, using FareShare’s food distribution that takes in date food that would otherwise go to waste – for example over-ordered stock, damaged packaging or foreign labelling. Household goods can also be included in FareShare’s distribution.

It will provide a hub for community led activity in the area, starting with children’s activities and a Community Larder Café, giving members an opportunity to socialise without going over-budget. Other events and activities will be decided on by members. 

“This is a fantastic initiative that recognises financial worries can be isolating as well as stressful.  It helps take the pressure off the weekly household bills and offers people the chance to meet up and make more friends in their community

“Eating healthily should be a right not a luxury, the Community Larder is helping save healthy food from landfill and giving people on a budget better choices than the weekly supermarket shop. Well done and thank you to the volunteers, the community centre and SOFEA who have set this up, I encourage people to sign up and take part in this great community initiative.”

Councillor Marie Tidball, Cabinet Member for Supporting Local Communities

How to become a member

Membership of the larder is open to anyone, there is no minimum membership period or referral needed.   There are two membership options, paid by direct debit, and can be cancelled at any time. Tier 1 membership costs £8.66 per month entitling them to up to 10 free items a week, Tier 2 membership cost £17.32 per month for up to 20 free items a week plus fresh fruit and vegetables.

The Community Larder is open at the Blackbird Leys Community Centre on Wednesdays, 3-5pm, anyone wanting to join should drop in to one of these sessions. The Blackbird Leys Community Fridge will continue to run alongside this new initiative, offering free food without a referral.

“We’re already running schemes in Didcot and Banbury and can see the difference it makes, so we’re excited to be setting up a Community Larder in Blackbird Leys. I look forward to seeing this grow and providing more community activities alongside the weekly groceries.”

Claire Hughes, Social Enterprise Manager at SOFEA 

“I am excited to get involved in the Leys Community larder project which I know will really benefit my community. It has really boosted my confidence and its great meeting new people”

Community larder volunteer Lyn Thompson

“It’s fantastic there are so many projects in Oxford where people can go and get a low-cost meal, top up their shopping, or get more serious support. When we talked to Oxford residents, many said they didn’t know about these services. So the food services map is a resource to address that. At the same time, we need to change the system so people aren’t struggling in the first place. This means having a plan to end hunger in Oxford, and campaigning for solutions like the Real Living Wage and to Fix Universal Credit.”

Hannah Fenton, Manager of Good Food Oxford