Oxford Food Shelf Provides Healthy Food Necessities 2022

By Janet Stoica 

This article appeared in the Yankee Xpress on Friday, March 11, 2022.

Without teamwork and great generosity from the churches, businesses, and wonderful people of Oxford, those among us who may need an extra bit of help with food assistance wouldn’t be so blessed. The Oxford Food Shelf, run by the Oxford Ecumenical Council, consisting of the eight churches in the town of Oxford (First Baptist Church, First Congregational Church, Grace Episcopal Church, Oak Hill Bible Church, St. Ann’s Catholic Church, St. Roch’s Catholic Church, United Methodist Church, and Zion Lutheran Church) has been in existence for more than 45 years and is one of the most organized and focused groups in the area that provides food and other vital staples to its clients while also providing dietary guidelines for those who have come to depend on their offerings. 

“We want to reach everyone who needs us,” says Christina St. Martin, chairperson of the Oxford Ecumenical Council, “we are reaching out to all who need us and have made several changes since COVID to assist those in need of not only everyday foods but we are ensuring there are plenty of healthy food choices as well as including everyday household staples like paper towels, dish and laundry detergents, diapers, baby formula, baby food, and gluten-free food items. Much is donated by local residents and stores and we gratefully thank the outstanding generosity of our Oxford residents and businesses for their kindness, volunteerism, and commitment to their fellow residents in need.” 

Ms. St. Martin explained that most food banks provide a box of pre-selected items but the Oxford Food Shelf takes the process to another level by having those in need do their own selecting of food and household items. Their goal is to help everyone eat as healthily as possible without adding more fat, sodium, and sugar to their diets. Fresh fruits and vegetables are provided as often as these products can be secured. “We want to make people conscious of good eating choices and habits,” said Ms. St. Martin. “The eight churches in Oxford support us with much- needed assistance from volunteers. We don’t know what we’d do without our wonderful volunteers. They are the backbone of our services helping to stock items and assist clients who visit the Food Shelf. Most people are very surprised to see what we offer and we realize there are many more people in our community who should be using our program. It’s an easy process to come in and try our services.” 

According to Susan Avery, co-chair of the Council, “The shopping area is now more open and brighter and welcoming for client families. Because it’s more spacious, clients are able to move through more quickly—all while maintaining social distancing guidelines. Everyone in the Food Shelf, client families and volunteers, wear masks at all times. We have a volunteer with a sewing machine who offers to help our client families with any clothing repairs they need. We are providing warm coats, hats, and mittens for children. We provide turkey dinners and presents for children at Christmas. In the summer, we manage a community garden which yields fresh local produce for our client families.” Additionally, they provide families with information on WIC, SNAP, Healthy Eating, Home Heating Assistance Programs, and information on free and reduced cost medical care. 

Variety is an essential ingredient of any food bank and the Oxford site has added more items to that variety like salad dressings, relishes, olives, pickles, even salsa, taco shells, and seasonings. Their standard offerings include canned fruit and veggies, pasta, cereals, pasta sauce, and soups. The Oxford community is very generous and people and many companies give to the Food Shelf on a weekly basis. The local churches and schools provide many donated items. Recently the Zion Lutheran Church held a Souper Bowl Fundraiser and donated 601 cans of soup to the organization. 

When the vegetable growing season gets underway, the Shelf expects to have a great variety of healthy fruits and vegetables. The First Congregational Church has a garden and customers love the fresh produce. Oxford’s Crown and Roots Farm allows the group to buy a share of their sustainably grown vegetables which will be incorporated into their summer food choices. The Shelf hopes to have leeks, bok choy, eggplant, and spaghetti squash with recipe cards provided for their healthy preparation. Even figs and black beans from the USDA will be on the shelves complete with serving techniques. Color-coded nutritious food designations will be employed via SWAP (“Supporting Wellness in Food Pantries”), assisting customers to make wise and good eating choices through the use of the color green advising them to “make this choice often,” yellow for “sometimes,” and red for “seldom.” The SWAP system is based on reducing sodium, added sugars, and fats. 

So, if you live in Oxford and think you might need a bit of food assistance, you’re very much welcome to visit the Oxford Food Shelf. There is a simple process of registration/eligibility and a weekly selection of groceries to help with your dietary needs. They are open on Thursdays from 4:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. and are located in the lower level of the Community Center, 4 Maple Street, Oxford. Phone: (508) 987-1062. 

Contact Janet: jstoica@TheYankeeXpress.com