DonorsFinancialGroupsImpactNewsOCFNaomi from SOFEA loads crates in one of the new chillers

SOFEA, a social enterprise that employs disadvantaged young people in its food redistribution centre, benefited from collaborative funding coordinated by OCF. The equipment purchased has enabled them to triple the amount of food they can pass on to local charities.

The South Oxfordshire Food and Education Alliance (SOFEA) operates an ingenious social enterprise model: they start by taking on surplus food from supermarkets in the area; food is brought to SOFEA’s warehouse near Didcot for sorting and storage, where young people who have dropped out of education are given valuable work experience and training; and finally, the food is redistributed to local charities and community organisations such as retirement homes, homeless shelters and day centres.

At OCF’s celebration event at Broughton Castle last year, SOFEA founder Richard Kennell spoke about how difficult it was for charities and social enterprises to access substantive funding, particularly in the start-up phase when investment in infrastructure was needed. Watch the video of Richard speaking here. He argued that instead of asking small charities to spend inordinate amounts of time completing grant applications from multiple funders, all with different criteria and different small amounts available, the charitable sector would benefit greatly from more funder collaboration, allowing charities to focus on their core work.

In response to Richard’s call for greater collaboration, OCF has been working to convene funders with similars aims and interests together, for example through our Funders’ Forum in October 2016, and most recently by launching a relationship with The Good Exchange. What is more, OCF was also able to help SOFEA scale up their operation significantly via the purchase of two new chillers for their warehouse, which has enabled them to process three times the amount of surplus food than before. OCF did this by leveraging funds of nearly £40,000 from multiple funders, including individuals and local trusts.

This collaboration came about because OCF was impressed by a grant application from SOFEA, and having discussed their project with them, it was clear that further assistance would make a big impact. Alongside the funding, OCF supplied volunteer mentors to help SOFEA revamp their business plan and look at long-term sustainability for the organisation.

Richard Kennell says of the funding: “Grants from Oxfordshire Community Foundation, FareShare and the Vale of White Horse District Council have enabled us to purchase two much-needed new chillers! On the 8th March the chillers were delivered to our warehouse, allowing us to receive and redistribute even more good food that would otherwise go to waste, thereby providing more meals to vulnerable people. A huge thank you to all the very generous funders for this wonderful philanthropy.”

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