Every time we close our eyes we see vans. There just seems to be something magnetic about vans at the moment. We’re fully aware that a van, to most people, is just a van…
But more and more, in and around Oxford, it seems that vans are becoming vehicles of social change. Here’s a little about five of our favourite vans that are working together to reshape the food system in Oxford.
The VegVan: Redefining Food Retail
There’s the Cultivate VegVan, which, after its guest appearance in the Guardian and its ceremonial launch at Hogacre Common, has now been in service for a full month, over which time it has provided 500 customers with top-notch locally grown fruit and veg.
Cultivate’s CrewVan: Relocating City-Dwellers to the Countryside
Then there’s the Cultivate CrewVan; smaller, nippier and less flashy-looking than the VegVan, but indispensable. This van, reincarnated from its previous life as a police van, is used for transporting Cultivate staff, members and volunteers to and from the land, and for zipping through the countryside doing pick-ups of local produce to stock the VegVan and deliver to wholesale customers.
The third van, in complete defiance of the ubiquitous white van look, is matt black, and strikes a dramatic, angular pose against its backdrop of woodland and wind turbine at Hogacre Common. This van is The Field Kitchen: a van fully kitted out with a commercial kitchen inside it, serving up sumptuous locally sourced three-course meals – pop-up-restaurant-style – every weekend throughout the summer. Rupert, the head chef, has a particular penchant for braising Cultivate baby gem lettuces. And he whips up a mean baba ganoush out of our aubergines. Baby gems and aubergines that we deliver to his Van in our Van…
Oxford Food Bank’s Vans: Redistributing Food Surpluses
The fourth and fifth vans are the veterans of the Oxford foodie-van-scene: the Oxford Food Bank’s vans. Two white vans working around the clock to fight food poverty and food waste by redistributing fresh, healthy food to charities feeding Oxford’s poor. These two vans are staffed by the most dynamic and diverse team of volunteers you’ll ever meet. They always need more volunteers, so if you ever have spare morning or afternoon, go and try out a shift. I dare you not to get hooked.
And here is another instance of inter-van collaboration: the Oxford Food Bank has welcomed us into their city-centre warehouse space. That’s where the VegVan sleeps. That’s where we store our veg. That’s where we stock up and spruce up the VegVan. And that’s where we have the best chats of the day too. Because this unprecedented act of kindness has thrown us into a wonderful, community of van-driving foodie activists, where we feel right at home.
But now the Oxford Food Bank’s tenure in this free warehouse is coming to an end. So they’re fundraising to secure another space by the end of the year. We can all help by taking two seconds to vote for this video and help them win a much-needed £3000 grant. Click it, please, and help us to make this Oxford-food-van-solidarity come full circle!