AN OXFORD college is helping to feed rough sleepers through the coronavirus pandemic.

Pembroke College has teamed up with Oxford City Council to provide 15,000 meals for homeless people.

The college has estimated that is has doled out the equivalent of 120 kilos of mashed potato every week since the start of April, when the partnership began.

The council secured 121 rooms in hotels and student accommodation following a government direction on March 26 to house people who were sleeping rough and in shared hostel spaces.

Pembroke’s catering team has been supplying breakfast and two hot meals a day to help them self-isolate safely since April 4.

But providing meals for around 120 people in five different locations presents challenges for how to deliver the food and essential items two times a day.

An eight-strong team of council and ODS staff collects from Pembroke to deliver hot lunches and dinners, with cold breakfast packs included in the second delivery.

During Ramadan, the council has also been making later evening deliveries for around 10 people observing the fast.

The college is catering for a wide variety of dietary requirements including allergies, gluten and dairy intolerances, halal, vegetarian and diabetics

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At the same time staff are dealing managing social distancing: only four staff can be on duty in the kitchen at any one time.

Pembroke head chef, Chris Allnutt, said: “Our job is almost unrecognisable to the one we were all doing just a few short weeks ago, and it has taken some getting used to.

"We have met the challenge of social distancing well and have had to change the way we order food and goods as not all of our suppliers deliver five days a week at the moment."

The chef said the college was trying to use local suppliers, but added the kitchen was going through supplies at a swift pace.

This included 1,750 packs of cereal, 840 one-pint UHT milk cartons, 120 kilos of mashed potatoes and 2,000 disposable knives, forks and spoons every week.

Mr Allnut added: “The challenge that we are all undertaking has been one of the most difficult I have tackled but certainly by far the most rewarding. All of the chefs and members of the catering team that have been part of this chapter in Pembroke’s long history are just bursting with pride.

"Not once have I seen anything but a gleaming smile across every single colleague’s face."

Councillor Mike Rowley, cabinet member for affordable housing and housing the homeless, said: “It takes more than a roof to end homelessness and I’m very grateful for the hard work done by Pembroke College, council and ODS staff to meet the needs of people who had experienced rough sleeping or were still on the streets when we went into lockdown.

It would take one person eating three meals a day more than 13 years and eight months to eat 15,000 meals.