We had agreed with St. P&P church, who have an elderly/frail congregation, that we would shut the Botley community fridge as soon as the first coronavirus case was identified in Oxford. That happened last Sunday, and we shut the fridge on Monday.
I thought that we’d have a little holiday from picking up and distributing fresh food, and my only worry was finding somewhere that could distribute non-perishables to people in need. I told several of the other community fridges that they could have ‘our’ food for the duration…
… and then I received some lovely emails from several women who were wondering whether it might be possible to keep the Botley fridge alive in some virtual form, say by delivering the food to local children’s groups, or cooking it and delivering it to people who needed food.
So on Wednesday we trialed a ‘virtual fridge’ outside the library from 3:15 to 4:15pm: we set up 7 crates of food, and several of us basically said ‘come and get free food’ to anyone passing by. Six of the crates went!
Since then (today is Friday) we found a place to store the food between when it is delivered and when it will be distributed, in the Manna Cafe. It’s not a perfect location: on the first floor, on the opposite end of the shopping precinct. But it’s better than keeping it at one of our homes. We’re hoping that we can find a closer place, possibly in Seacourt Hall, but that needs to go through various committees first.
We have also come up with a plan. Several parents from the local school will be running a virtual fridge, again outside the library, today and next week every day Tuesday – Friday. We had been hoping to get young people from St. Edward’s School to run a weekend virtual fridge, but I just found out that their school won’t allow it because of the virus. The library also can’t hold onto, and distribute, non-perishables to people in need on coronavirus grounds.
Because of coronavirus, we are having to run the virtual fridge with a couple of rules:
- Nobody with coronavirus symptoms should get near the food
- All volunteers and fridge users should stay at least 1m away from each other
- We will provide sanitising hand gel (which should be delivered today, in the meanwhile we’ll use baby wipes) which fridge users will need to use before they can touch the food
- Volunteers are asked to become familiar with NHS information about coronavirus.
So, at the time of writing this, the Botley fridge has arisen from the ashes like a phoenix (or at least a baby phoenix). We will have regular ‘virtual fridges’ for at least a week, we have found a place to store the food, we have a coronavirus protocol, and we are in the process of trying to find better accommodation. I’m delighted, though the vacation from the fridge will have to wait.