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Oxfordshire CAG Network Responds to Covid Emergency

Although a time of crisis across the globe, the lockdown has brought out many stories of kindness, community spirit and inspiration. Many of our members are at the forefront of the response to the lockdown in Oxfordshire and are doing incredible work distributing surplus food, repairing bikes for key workers, reconditioning donated laptops for school children, getting groceries to those shielding or self-isolating and offering grow kits to individuals and families wanting to grow their own.

We knew many of our members were working hard to keep their communities fed and safe during lockdown but had little idea what kind of impact they were having and so we sent a call out to see what they had done. We were astounded by the results.

covid infographic final

Food deliveries

The immediate response by many groups was to ensure the vulnerable, shielding and self-isolating had secure food supplies. Community Action Groups (CAGs) running community fridges and food-related activities began deliveries of donated and surplus food (food that would have otherwise gone to waste), and taking orders for food to be delivered to those self-isolating. Across Oxford city, Abingdon and Witney, hundreds of households have been supported and of the CAGs who have been in touch with us, we’ve calculated 6,388 deliveries have been made between March 23rd and the end of May. That’s about 36 tonnes of food which has fed people at this difficult time, about 20 tonnes of which is surplus food that has been redistributed instead of going to waste.

Grow your Own

Along with food deliveries, Harvest @ Home have been helping families to grow their own by supplying ‘grow kits’ to households facing food insecurity or that would benefit from the boost of gardening. Their starter kits include tools, compost and seedlings, and so far, 119 families have signed up. Harvest at Home commented that, “The feedback from households is incredible. Most are first time gardeners. One gentleman’s entire street is now invested in his garden… donating time to dig for him, pots, tools, and of course, singing to all the plants!”

Bikes for Key Workers

Another hugely impactful project is the Bike for Key Workers scheme. Started by the Windrush Bike Project in Witney, it soon spread to the city with Cyclox and Broken Spoke Bike Coop taking in donated bikes and volunteers servicing and repairing them before they are given free of charge to key workers in order to ease their commute and encourage cycling. So far, 170 bikes have been passed on to key workers and the feedback has been heart-warming. Keyworker Bryony said,  “A huge thank you for my lovely bike. I am so very grateful to you and everyone else involved in the project.” While another key worker, Kevin, remarked, “I have really, really enjoyed riding the bike and it has made lockdown and time off between shifts so much more enjoyable. I’ve been exploring the countryside around Oxford and having a wonderful time.”

And much more..

On top of all this, Sustainable Wantage and Sustainable Didcot have been busy wiping and repairing donated laptops to give to families with children or students studying at home. Sustainable Didcot have run remote repairs, helping users get their computers working again to get online, one member ran a tool sharpening table outside his house, while others made facemasks, laundry bags and scrubs.   

Hundreds and hundreds of welfare calls were made by CAG members, 6,174 prescriptions were delivered in Witney alone, and 500-600 seedlings were swapped at an event run by Rose Hill and Iffley Low Carbon.

These figures do not even reflect the full impact of community action groups across the county and the hugely important work they have been doing during lockdown, just those who have responded to our call out.

We are incredibly proud of our member groups and all the volunteers involved in this effort, your kindness, generosity and community spirit makes the county a better place for us all to live in.


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