Community Fridges are a platform for sharing surplus food within a community to reduce food waste going to landfill. They are not means tested and are open to all. Community Fridges differ from the vital role Food Banks play, but can often be a complementary provision.
There are currently just over 100 community fridges across the UK with each fridge sharing one to four tonnes of food per month. Each year these community fridges can redistribute 975 tonnes of food surplus (equivalent to 1.9 million meals) and benefit up to 77,500 people.
Council secured funding through the Department of Communities (DfC) Covid-19 Food Partnership Fund to support the development of a community fridge network in Mid and East Antrim. Council has supported three locations to date, and is in receipt of funding to support three more
Council's Parks and Open Spaces team have delivered the project and are working with Community Fridge volunteers who manage the day-to-day running of the fridges. Local food outlets Tesco, Vivo, ADSA, the Henderson Group and Marks and Spencer have been supporting the initiative with donations.
The premise of a Community Fridge is simple – whatever items are available can be taken by anyone. As well as food sharing, Community Fridges give people opportunities to contribute through volunteering, learning new skills and sharing their existing skills. Community Fridge volunteers have been overwhelmed with the level of support for the project. At one location, 20 volunteers are now opening and closing the fridge each day, collecting food from suppliers, and ensuring the area is clean and doing their best to educate fridge users on food waste issues.
Going forward volunteers and Council will look to more accurately measure kilos of food redistributed monthly which will provide important data.
Work in partnership. Look for external funding opportunities. Share best practice.
Engage volunteers and community.
Promote the environmental benefits and educate further on how residents can make more changes to their food habits at home.
Be mindful this is part of a bigger problem - why is there so much food waste in the first place?