Cherwell Larder and its hundreds of volunteers are providing food for more than 980 people hit hardest by COVID, across the local district.

But due to a recent increase in demand, the project which then opened at Exeter Hall in Kidlington in March to feed the community and eliminate food waste, needs your help now more than ever.

“If people can share their expertise, their skills, their surplus, or of course, a bit of change, it all makes a difference,” founder Emily Connally adds.

Cherwell Larder is not means tested and therefore available to everyone, with priority given to people in the Cherwell District, primarily for residents of South Cherwell: Kidlington, Yarnton, Begbroke, Bicester, Bletchingdon, Weston on the Green, and surrounding areas. 

The larder also provides pet food and non-food essentials such as toiletries, loo roll, cleaning supplies, clothing, and toys, thanks to its amazing donors.

“If people can share their expertise, their skills, their surplus, or of course, a bit of change, it all makes a difference.”

More volunteers are needed on Fridays when the charity packs produce boxes, stocks its marketplace and loads the cars for deliveries.

The Cherwell Larder project also needs accountants to help with bookkeeping and budgeting, volunteers to grow food, chefs to design meal kits, builders to help with a long-term storage unit refurb, and others to call and check on those who’ve been isolating for months. Donations are also welcome.

Over 980 people have signed up for Cherwell Larder so far, with many regularly attending the project’s weekly food waste marketplace. The larder is also supporting people sleeping rough.

Produce bags are packed and ready to be distributed to hundreds of people each week. Photo by Claire Howard

The service could not run without the help of its hard-working and committed volunteers. Emily added: “Almost 200 people have helped us at one point or another, but we are also a cooperative model and many of our core volunteers are also users of the larder. 

As well as feeding the community, The Cherwell Larder is tackling food waste: “We are not only helping people in need by providing access to surplus food and produce, and feeding people, but we are also going greener, and long term that’s really what this is about.

Since Emily launched the charity in March 2020, she has also saved 50 tonnes of food from going to waste.

“We feel it isn’t enough to feed a person, we must look at lifting one another up long term,” she adds.

The dry store for Cherwell Larder. Households receive a combination of 10 of these items each week along with a generous bag of fresh produce. Photo by Nina Osswald.

To that end Cherwell Collective has organised mini-courses in cooking and food waste reduction and will run full course offerings as soon when lockdown is lifted.

“We are partnering with groups that help people grow their own food such as Harvest @ Home, and together we provide a more well-rounded solution than a traditional food bank. It’s not about the immediate need to eat, it’s more about a long-term goal to nurture one another,” Emily says. 

Emily added that demand for the service is increasing all the time and they are helped by the Cherwell Collective, CiC (community interest company), Oxford Food Bank, Thomas Franks Foundation, SOFEA, and local council grants.

Kidlington Parish Council and The Littlebury Hotel, Bicester have provided premises, and TVR Self-Drive provides a regular van for distribution to Bicester.

The Cherwell Larder also signposts people to other services if they need more support and itspartners include Crawford’s Fruit and Veg, Oxford Mutual Aid, Shipton HUB, Cherwell Volunteer Fleet, North Oxford Food Bank, Yarnton HUB, Begbroke Mutual Aid, Heyford Larder, and Bicester Mutual Aid.

The best way to access Cherwell Larder’s service is to sign up here

Sarah Edwards