A report back on this year’s successful operation by OFB’s Nick Walker – July 2016
In 2015 Oxford Brookes approached the Oxford Food Bank with a view to partnering a campaign by the British Heart Foundation, called Pack for Good. This is part of a wider national campaign that the British Heart Foundation have been running for some years, where they encourage University and College students to donate their unwanted goods when they leave at the end of term. The scheme has now been widened to partner with local food banks. Although yes there were donations of Pot Noodles (only about 5 pots), and lots of pasta sauce jars, the range of food donated was far wider than I expected, and reflected the global diversity of students at Oxford.
I was given this project to coordinate as part of my stint with the Food Bank. Karen O’Donaghue, National Stock Generation Manager at British Heart Foundation, and Juliette Ashton, coordinator of the Brookes Halls of Residences’ Managers, both helped us immeasurably and made sure the Halls and students were on message and aware of the campaign, and helped us with the press and tv launches. Although we trialled the scheme last year, 2016 was a further test to see whether there is scope for widening the project. We selected 5 halls which had favourable donated goods statistics from previous years, and concentrated on dry goods, drinks, and toiletries. We were also keen not to overstretch the limited resources of the Foodbank, as this project could easily become unmanageable. The largest hall, off the Marston Road in Oxford, has approximately 2500 students based there. We liaised with the local British Heart Foundation office in Swindon, and coordinated choosing sites (a mixture of in stairwells and communal kitchens), and keeping an eye of the levels in donation boxes and collection frequencies. Brookes organised separately the saving and collection and re-use by Brookes of frozen food from shared freezers.
At a publicity day at the Brookes Union, the students’ and staff’s reactions and awareness to the issue of waste food was very encouraging. Several students said that they were writing their thesis on the subject. Brookes has a sustainability team who helped to promote our message through social media and online.
A big thank you to Sainsbury’s who loaned us their blue crates, which we stickered up as donation boxes.
What we learned from this project was that the shared kitchens seemed to have the most potential for future donations. Perhaps having a donation box in the kitchen and seeing what your flatmates have already put in concentrates the mind when leaving. The quantities of food that were put to good use and saved from being wasted were significant, particularly at a period when the Food Bank’s regular suppliers had gone quiet. The quantities of bric and brac were also mind-boggling! Although it was an effort going round the various flats and halls, overseas and home students were incredibly generous. The trick seemed to be to remind them and their harassed parents at the moment of last minute packing of cars as students’ departed. We upped our collection frequency as we neared the end of term and more students left. Part of the complexity is different years/courses leaving at different times.
Over the whole project we collected a total of 100 full blue crates of food and toiletries which very quickly got turned around at the OFB base and found new homes amongst the many charities that we supply. Many thanks to Brookes for allowing this scheme to go ahead and everybody who helped to make it possible in practice.
See the video report made by That’s TV Oxford about this scheme.