England’s oldest academic institutions are going head to head to see who can donate the most food to local food banks before the end of this term. Because We Can, a charity founded by Lady Margaret Hall alumnus Josh Tulloch, is running the competitive food drive and collecting donations made by students to stations within their colleges. Colleges are also competing to see who can make the most donations, with 22 currently participating across Oxford and Cambridge. As of November 22nd , Cambridge is well in the lead with over 2 times the amount of donations coming from Oxford. Food banks will already be receiving over 1200 items from the universities, with 8 days still to go.
Adrian Sjøvold, charities officer at Harris Manchester College, says that Because We Can “wanted to organise a friendly competition between Oxford and Cambridge to encourage students to give back to their host communities.” Exploiting the centuries old rivalry between Oxford and its break-away younger sister Cambridge was a smart move. If there’s one thing that motivates Oxonians, it’s shoeing the filthy tabs! But unfortunately, we’re making a bit of a disgrace of ourselves on the leader board. At time of writing Cambridge’s Claire college has singlehandedly donated more items than all 9 participating Oxford colleges combined! But Adrian still has faith in the community spirit of his fellow students, saying “we are still in the early stages and anything can happen before December 2nd.”
Exploiting the centuries old rivalry between Oxford and its break-away younger sister Cambridge was a smart move. If there’s one thing that motivates Oxonians, it’s shoeing the filthy tabs!
The competition is promoting the principle of ‘Buy One Give One Free”. Adrian explains, “BOGOF is a shopping habit: whenever you are in a grocery store to buy something for yourself, you purchase a few extra food items for the less privileged.” This incorporates charity into people’s daily routines and hopefully might encourage a habit in some participants. Outside of specific drives like this, most supermarkets have a place to leave items for donation. If students adopt this principle of buying a few extra items during their weekly shop, they can continue to make contributions to their local food banks without having to go too far out of the way.
Food banks had already faced a shortage of supply during the first COVID-19 lockdown, and some fear that the reimplementation of restrictions will deplete their reserves again. On the 23rd of March, the first day of lockdown in the UK, the Oxford Mail reported that Oxford Food Bank was already calling for donations after having its rate of donations fall by half in the week leading up to national closures. Adrian also recognises the exacerbating effect the pandemic is having on food shortages. “The pandemic is pushing more and more families into food poverty, and the Conservative government has done little to alleviate the desperation of those hit hardest by the crisis. BOGOF is a way for students to reduce the social disruption caused by COVID-19, by ensuring that people’s basic needs are met.”
The goal of the drive is to achieve 10,000 donated items by the 2nd of December. Things are looking hopeful, with 1200 items already being donated within the first 4 days. But if the goal is to be reached Oxford needs to step up its game and start bumping up its numbers. Currently, Keble is in the lead in Oxford with 94 donations, but Wadham is close behind with 75. Food stations have been set up to accept donations inside participating colleges. Alternatively, if you are not an Oxford student or your college is not participating, Adrian will accept donations left outside the main door of Harris Manchester College (“remember to not block the entrance!”).