6 July 2021
“Because people come to the pantry every week you can build a relationship with them. Coming to the Pantry is often just the beginning of the support we offer,” says Jo Dolby of Oasis Hub Bath. Oasis Hub Bath is a church and community charity, and is open to all who need support.
Currently they support around 131 households per week through their two food pantries, and an additional 30 to 45 families through their Make Lunch program, which combats holiday hunger. They also offer support services, which have helped some 233 people in the past year.
The food that Jo and her team get from FareShare allows them to offer variety and nutrition to those they work with: “The food from FareShare varies from week to week. Fresh fruit and veg always goes down well with families, it’s often things that are hard to afford so it makes it easier to provide their children with fruit and veg. We also include recipe ideas and families are really appreciative of that, especially during Covid with everyone being cooped up.”
For many of the families that Oasis Hub Bath works with, school holidays can be a particularly challenging time: “It can be really difficult for families to feed their children during the school holidays when they’re no longer getting free school meals. We’ve heard stories of parents going without food to make sure their children have enough, or children who come back to school having not eaten properly for a week, which of course has a huge effect on their concentration and mental health. So we want to fill that gap.”
“It’s not just food, we always try to provide some enrichment as well,” Jo continues. “Families who are struggling often aren’t able to go on holiday so during lockdown we’ve been providing ‘enrichment bags’ along with the food parcels. They’ll have games and activities, usually around a theme – for the holiday in June we did a ‘festival in a bag’.”
“Having that food makes life a bit easier,” explains Jo. “The contact and sense of connection I think is even more important than we’d realised before the pandemic. It can really boost people’s mental health just to have a conversation and have somewhere they know they’re welcome. We can also signpost them to further support they might need.”
Oasis Hub Bath is a supportive and inclusive space for all, and have particularly committed to making LGBTQ+ members of the community feel welcome: “We don’t just welcome but affirm and celebrate LGBTQ+ people in our church. We know we’re not perfect but we are learning all the time and we’re determined to be a place of safety for LGBTQ+ people or anyone in the community who needs support.”
Though Jo and her team are helping to address an immediate need, they’re determined to be there for the community in the long-term as well: “These issues aren’t going to go away overnight. What we want to do is build a community of people so that we’re able to offer support in a holistic way. It’s not just about crisis support, it’s about being there for people in the long-term and walking alongside them on their journey.”