Oasis Hub Hobmoor, facilitates a network of charities that aim to uplift and empower diverse communities across the Yardley area of Birmingham.
‘We look for strengths in the community and facilitate groups that can build on those,’ explains Community Development leader Andy Brown. The Hub works with schools, such as the Oasis Academy Hobmoor, with whom the Hub shares a site, as well as hospitals and other community organisations.
Food has long been a part of the Hub’s work, with over four years of partnership with FareShare providing food for children during school holidays.
‘The school is about 85% Muslim and in the wider community it’s about 70% of the people we work with. So almost all of our food is halal, which is really not that hard to do. We sometimes get halal meat from FareShare, which is really nice to have but for the most part we just think vegetarian, and we get a lot of great fresh veg in.
‘I think the way FareShare has been working to tailor the food to what organisations need has been really effective. The quality and the choice you get from FareShare is really great, and it means there’s less of a risk of waste because you’re getting people things they can actually use, so we really appreciate that.’
The Hub’s partnership with FareShare has become even more crucial as the Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated the already existing food poverty in Yardley: “With Covid we’ve had to focus much more on food because the need was so great. When the school was closed from March to August, we basically turned it into a food distribution hub, delivering about 200 food parcels every week.’
As schools reopened, the Hub wound down its delivery service and got to work setting up Oasis Pantry Hobmoor.
‘There was a lot of food injustice and food poverty in the community before the crisis and there will be after, so we see the Pantry as a long-term way to start addressing that,’ explains Andy, ‘our aim is that no child or adult, no one in Yardley, should go hungry. We’ve heard back from people that the delivery service was really a lifeline, people couldn’t have survived without it and there is still a huge need out there.’
Using food from FareShare, the Pantry offers members an affordable and healthy way to do their weekly shop.
75 members in one month
‘In first four weeks we’ve had 75 households sign up. It’s really in line with our ethos because it’s about allowing people choice and dignity. We try to set it up like a shop as much as possible. People can choose a certain amount of the more expensive items, so a chicken or a block of cheese, and then some more of the less expensive items like tinned food and pasta.
‘We also do special offers every week – two-for-ones, meal deals, bonuses of fresh veg if we’ve got a glut. It’s quite fun and having that choice makes it something more empowering for people and means that less food will be wasted because they’re choosing things they actually want.’
Like many communities, the people of Yardley have had to make difficult sacrifices over the past year:
Ramadan and Eid cancelled
‘It’s been really difficult for a lot of people in our community this year, they’ve not been able to celebrate Ramadan or Eid in the same way, and unlike with Christmas there wasn’t really any attempt at accommodation.
‘For the past three years before last we’ve done Iftars at Ramadan, which has been lovely. People share food, pray, talk with their neighbours, and revive themselves. It’s a really great time for the community to come together. We, of course, had to cancel our gathering this year but the previous year we had 400 people come to use the school hall and it was fantastic. We hope we’ll be able to return to that in the future.’
Looking forward, Andy knows there is still work to be done: ‘We’re hoping once schools are back we’ll be resuming our holiday provision, but we’re also planning to sustain the Pantry in the long-term. So, we’ll be getting back to some parts of normal but we’ve learned a lot in between.
‘I think one good thing to come out of this pandemic is a greater awareness that food injustice does exist and is real, and needs to be dealt with. We really hope there’s a legacy there.’