A FOOD bank has been redistributing left over food from cinemas, leisure centres, and theatres, after they were forced to close for the second lockdown.

Oxford Food Bank, off Botley Road, received surplus food donations from non-essential businesses, including pubs, restaurants and vending machine suppliers, once the country went into lockdown on November 5.

Unlike many food banks, Oxford Food Bank distributes fresh surplus food including fruit, vegetables and dairy products, supplying food to over 100 charities around Oxfordshire.

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Manager Cathy Howard said: "It has been a strange year for food surplus.

"When non-essential shops were ordered to close in March we collected 5 tons of non-perishable goodies from TKMaxx stores, from Easter eggs and glittery marshmallows to olive oil and saffron.

Banbury Cake:

Chris Hearn has worked at the food bank for four years

"Then more recently, as cinemas, theatres, vending machine suppliers and other leisure outlets have reduced or closed their operations, we have received many donations of crisps, fizzy drinks, jelly sweets, fudge and chocolate raisins.

"Health-conscious volunteers sometimes turn up their noses at such junk, but food is emotional as well as nutritious, and these treats have helped to make a lot of people happy through difficult times."

Due to the pubs and restaurants closing the food bank also saw an influx of fresh fruit and vegetables."

Banbury Cake:

Left over pumpkins at the food bank

The food bank is open seven hours a day and seven days a week, operating with a team of over 100 volunteers and three members of staff.

Jacqui Gitau is the director and co-founder of African Families in the UK (AFiUK).

Ms Gitau comes down to the food bank every Friday to offer bags of food to families who visit her support group.

She said: "I work with African families in the UK; it says African Families in the UK but we now work with all migrant families.

"We want to help with cross-cultural parenting - helping parents have access to the services they need, help them understand the education system here.

Banbury Cake:

Rachel Walding, Cathy Howard and Jacqui Gitau.

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"We have now started to run a small women's group on a Friday as well and the food bank has been quite instrumental.

"The food bank does not just have economic benefits, but it also allows children to experience different varieties of food.

"If you only have a certain amount of money to shop you will buy the same things, you cannot afford to buy, but with the foodbank, try this cabbage, try this fruit, try this bread.

"It is really an opportunity for people to enjoy all the diversity there is with a limited budget, so the foodbank is amazing."

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The food bank organises the surplus food into groups, whether they are perishable, in need of being refrigerated or are canned.

Jane Benyon, of the Community Emergency Foodbank Oxford, relies on the Oxford Food Bank to help provide for more than sixty families a week.

She said: "We are very busy and a lot of people out there are desperate for food."

Other charities who frequent the Botley food bank include the charity Syrian Community in Oxford and Oxfordshire.

The charity focuses on keeping the community together, organise 'get out of the house' opportunities and keeping children entertained.

They also provide food packages to those families in need.

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Hadi Nuri, director of the charity, said: "I represent the Syrian community in Oxfordshire.

"We started this initiative early this year to support people during the lockdown and we came here to start creating food parcels, not just for people in the city, but all around the county.

"The food bank gives us a massive amount of support. They have been supporting us from the beginning, and have helped keep our initiative going."

The food bank continues to operate in a Covid-safe manner and provide surplus food to charities and organisations around Oxfordshire.