Witney and West Oxfordshire foodbank

Witney and West Oxfordshire foodbank started in a small church on the outskirts of Witney, later moving to a garage. In 2016, the decision was made to operate under the Trussell Trust umbrella, and as such, we have a board of trustees who adhere to the Charities Commission regulations.

It was at this time we moved into an area of the Cottsway building where we’ve developed a warehouse system and a small office area. The food is stored on racking with long dated items taken to one of two lock-ups, with a strict stock rotation system in place so waste is kept to a minimum.

Witney and West Oxfordshire Foodbank has one paid member of staff who oversees everything in the warehouse with everyone else being volunteers who usually work a two-hour shift. Opening hours are Monday to Friday 10:00 -14:00. Clients are asked to collect parcels between 10:00 and 12:00 with the last two hours being taken up with weighing all the donated food and date checking.

Anyone facing food poverty can be referred to the foodbank to get support. Agencies who refer people to the foodbank include: Citizens Advice, Job Centre, Church Leaders, Social Workers, Schools, Health Visitors and Addiction Support Professionals to name a few.

The foodbank is only expected to provide around six parcels in total to each referral as clients are also signposted to other agencies for further support. If their situation hasn’t improved foodbank assistance will still continue.

Covid had a huge impact on our work. Prior to lockdown we were able to chat with clients to get to understand their needs, provide a hot drink and a friendly face. As lockdown also affected our referral agencies opening, it was impossible to follow our usual methods of contact but we are hoping to get back to this as things return to normal.

Our overall workload has increased considerably both with parcels going out and donations of food and money coming in. Between September 2020 and 2021 we’ve seen a 42% increase in turnover; a 38% increase in stock in and a 35% increase in stock out. Since the beginning of Covid, we have provided emergency food for over 4,000 adults and more than 3,000 children in Witney and the surrounding villages.

Looking to the future we all hope for a society where foodbanks aren’t needed at all. The Trussell Trust is committed to challenging the economic issues that lock people into poverty.

Our aim is to reach as many people as possible through Social Media, talking to local groups and having collection points in supermarkets. Over the last few weeks we’ve been out in the community raising awareness of who we are and what we do and as a result we’re pleased to say our donations and offers to volunteer have increased. Please visit our website https://witney.foodbank.org.uk for more details of how you can help.

Debbie Jessel

December 2021 – January 2022