Meet the fridges at the heart of our communities
27 May 2021
When is a fridge so much more than a fridge? When it’s a community fridge. There’s a new movement sweeping the UK, and the Rothschild Foundation was an early pioneer of the concept. Community fridges are spaces where everyone – regardless of means – can share fresh food that would otherwise have gone to waste.
Environmental charity Hubbub coordinates the world’s largest Community Fridge Network with over 150 community fridges running across the UK, from Truro to the Isle of Mull. The network offers free support to groups wanting to set up their own community fridge, providing comprehensive guidance and a network of peers.
Since Nov 2019, members of the Community Fridge Network have redistributed the equivalent of over 9 million meals* (over 4,000 tonnes of food surplus) to over 250,000 visitors. What’s more important, though, are the stories that we hear from communities. The fridges bring people together, address social isolation and provide people with the opportunity to access healthy food, try something new and save money. Nowhere is this more true than in Buckinghamshire.
In 2017, Hubbub and the Rothschild Foundation partnered to bring the concept to Buckinghamshire, the home turf of the Rothschild Foundation, launching community fridges in High Wycombe and Aylesbury the following year. The Bucks fridges are managed by Aylesbury Vineyard and the Women’s Cultural Arena (WCA), who run their ‘Community Friendly Fridge’ fridge at Oakridge Baptist Church in High Wycombe.
WCA CIC, established in 2017, to bring together women from diverse cultures and different ethnic backgrounds for mutual recognition, support and celebration. This has largely been done through the medium of cultural exchange. You can find out more about their work via their website and Hubbub’s latest podcast, ‘Down to Earth’.
“No referrals are needed, and there’s no stigma attached. There’s no categorisation, discrimination, filtering or anything else. It’s going so well that Berkshire County Council came to visit us to learn from us […] Interestingly, we became mentors to other grass root level organisations.” Shanthi, founder, WCA
As well as improving access to food, these fridges empower communities to connect and learn new skills through activities such as cookery sessions and workshops on how to grow your own.
Pre Covid, Aylesbury Vineyard had been running cooking workshops and youth food activities using surplus. While WCA had a programme of cultural food activities including cooking classes and community meals promoting food cultures from across the globe, community allotments and grow at home schemes, food systems discussions, film viewings, poetry and art classes, alongside workshops on achieving a ‘balanced diet’.
Then Covid-19 hit. Activities were put on hold, and each organisation decided to pivot their operations to emergency food provision. At Aylesbury Vineyard, the fridge merged with the Storehouse foodbank, which increased its food parcel collection from two to six days per/week. By December 2020, they had given away 10,507 food parcels (compared to 6,040 the previous year), amounting to 95 tonnes of food, 220,647 meals. Meanwhile, WCA established a self-referral system and initiated a ‘parcel system‘ which supported local households shielding or struggling to access food. In May 843 Kg were redistributed, this peaked to two tonnes in June.
Now, as Covid restrictions ease, these fridges are excited to open their doors once again, and we all stand to benefit from the new skills and friendships they foster. Get in touch with Hubbub for more details on how you can start or support your local community fridge.