AN INNOVATIVE scheme offering affordable, healthy food could wants to expand across the county after proving a hit in its first few months.

South Oxfordshire Food and Education Alliance's (SOFEA) Community Larder, a programme helping households access nutritious food, has seen its membership grow from just 26 households in June to more than 150.

The programme allows members to choose up to 10 items of food each week from the larder, held at Didcot's Marlborough Club between 3.30pm and 5pm every Monday, for as little as £2.50 a week.

But with discounts at local businesses, educational sessions and access to private social media pages also included, the scheme is about more than just healthy eating.

Organisers are hoping to send out boxes from the larder to Blackbird Leys and Cowley's schools and colleges, while it is a valuable source of work experience for young people helped by SOFEA.

The scheme has already proved vital for dozens of families and manager Claire Hughes admits even she was surprised at its popularity.

She said: “We didn’t think it would take off as much as it has.

“It's important that people know we aren’t a food bank as some people get embarrassed about having to go to food banks.

"But we have members who are nurses saving up for their first house.

“It’s about bringing the community together, not just the food.

“We ask people to tell us why they joined the larder and around 90 per cent are low income families."

The larder was officially launched at the town's Cornerstone Arts Centre earlier this month.

Families can join the scheme for just £5 per week, compared to the £2.50 price for individuals and families, and can access 20 items plus a choice of four items of fruit and vegetables.

Food is provided through the FareShare scheme, a UK charity that redistributes supermarket food that would otherwise go to waste to frontline charities.

Everything offered is within date and only in the FareShare scheme because of over-ordering or other logistical difficulties.

This ties in with SOFEA's aim to reduce food waste and make a positive impact on the global environment.

The charity also aims to provide education and training to improve the employability of disadvantaged young people in south Oxfordshire.

Many of these are trained at the larder, based at the Trident Business Park in Didcot, where they gain transferrable skills and learn how to contribute to the social enterprise.

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