A few years ago, a small group of local, environmentally - conscious people had a chat about opening a Community Fridge in Saltash. The usual questions came up; where will we put it? How will we man it? Where do we get the food from?
We had access to the big stainless-steel fridge in the Community Hub, but nowhere to put it. We envisioned a scheme where people would deposit their peppers, mushrooms etc when going on holiday, or leave surplus veg from their gardens.
Step forward to 2020, & we found ourselves in the throes of the Covid-19 pandemic. Our volunteers went shopping for vulnerable people & those self-isolating, our Hub closed, our community transport & dementia voice groups stopped. Funding became available for emergency food aid. DEFRA supported schemes that helped people access food. We provided emergency food parcels. Still, we had nowhere to run the Community Fridge from. People were furloughed, worked from home, children were home-schooled, no-one went out. We went in - & out – of two lockdowns; but when Lockdown 3 started, & people started to really struggle financially, we decided the time would never be more right to open our Community Fridge.
The Community Hub, like all other non-essential businesses, was closed in November 2020, so we wheeled the big fridge into the sales area, joined the Community Fridge Network, made some calls & did some networking.
Opening our Community Fridge Our Fridge opened in November 2020. On the first day we opened, we had 37 visitors. Over the coming weeks, we made lots of mistakes - the learning curve was steep. We had gluts of bananas, avocados, potatoes, oranges, bread and more bread. Someone complained that one of her apples had spots on it – well, it is food that’s been rejected by the supermarkets because it’s not perfect. We discovered that it really needed 3 volunteers to man each Fridge session, plus many more to collect, sort & store all the food.
After a few manic weeks, we realised this was going to be so much bigger than any of us had imagined. The Community Fridge completely took over our Hub at 4 Fore St; it’s a good job the shop couldn’t open! The number of Fridge users went up & up, & we began to hear stories about how it was a lifeline for so many families struggling with furlough, redundancies & a family suddenly at home every day, needing to be fed.
Some people struggled to get to us in Fore St, so we began a Mobile Larder service, following 2 alternating routes around Saltash. Our aim is for this to be a permanent service, & we aim to take this out to other areas of Saltash, and the surrounding PL12 parishes.
It became evident there was a very real need for the Community Fridge to be a permanent fixture in Saltash, & we started looking for suitable premises.
Now, just 15 months later, we have a lease on a closed-down café, which will be our Community Kitchen, and a permanent home to the Community Fridge and the Mobile Larder. We have been incredibly fortunate to have Weatherhead Shopfitting on board, funding the refurbishment. The Community Kitchen is scheduled to be fully open in April 2022. The story of the Community Kitchen is something we’ll share with you sometime soon…
To date, our Community Fridge has saved over 20 tonnes of food from being wasted, served over 11,000 people, and has over 30 volunteers involved in the project. Not only has it helped people & the environment, but it’s also provided an opportunity for community cohesion, and “giving something back”.
What is a Community Fridge? The ethos is simple; the food is surplus & would otherwise be wasted, so its freely available to anyone who will use it. We simply ask that people only take what they will use, leaving enough for the next person. It’s not about “food need”, it’s about reducing food waste. We do sometimes limit items so that there’s enough for everyone, and we ask for a small “pay as you feel/ can” donation, if possible, to help cover our overheads like insurance, vehicle running costs, volunteer training & building overheads.
Why are Community Fridges needed? WRAP (The Waste & Resources Action Programme) estimates that 61% of food waste in the UK could be avoided. They also estimate that the average family in the UK throws away £470 worth of edible food each year. Food waste is a big environmental problem; if it were a country, it would be the 3rd largest global producer of harmful greenhouse gases, behind China and USA. Community Fridges help to combat this, by providing food suppliers with an opportunity to share surplus food with the community, to stop it being wasted. There are now over 300 fridges in the Community Fridge Network, helping families and individuals to save money, stop perfectly good food from being wasted, and helping to protect our environment for future generations.
Why is the emphasis on reducing food waste?
Some facts to make you think; 1.3 billion tonnes of food is wasted globally each year (Food & Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations) In the UK, food waste produces as many CO2 emissions as 10 million cars.
70% of global fresh water is used for agriculture.
30% of TOTAL greenhouse emissions are created by global food production.
*Figures quoted by WRAP
To put it simply, if you take some of the surplus food from the Community Fridge, you’re helping the environment by helping to reduce food waste.
Where does the food come from? The food in the fridge & on the tables has all come from registered food businesses and has all been donated to stop it going to waste. We also get private donations from individuals. The Community Fridge acts as a hub for the surplus food, enabling it to be accessible to anyone who will use it. To ensure food safety, we have strict guidelines over what can be donated.
What foods do we accept? As a rule of thumb, if it has a USE BY date, we cannot accept it. If it has a BEST BEFORE date, we can accept it, but must consider the condition of the food. We can accept;
Bread, cakes & pastries
Vegetables & salad items
Unopened salad or veg packets
Fresh eggs (traceable, lion stamped, with a use by date)
Tinned, bottled, dried or packet foods (unopened packaging)
Foods with a Use By date, if they’re within date
Foods past their Best Before date, as long as they fall within WRAP guidelines
What we can’t accept
Cooked food from uncertified sources (e.g., homemade items)
Raw meat, raw fish, cooked rice
Unpasteurised milk or products containing this
Opened or part-used packets
Damaged or rusty tins
How do I know the food is safe to eat? We are registered with Cornwall Environmental Health. Our team of trained volunteers check the food to make sure it’s fit for human consumption & ensure any unsafe or spoiled food is disposed of responsibly. The food is checked daily, & we have a cleaning schedule & daily temperature monitoring for the fridge. Clear guidelines inform volunteers & users on how to use the Community Fridge. Our key volunteers have all undergone Food Hygiene training.
If you notice anything amiss when you visit, please let us know, so that we can sort it out. Email our Hub firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 01752 848348.
Now you know what it’s all about, we look forward to welcoming you as a visitor to our Community Fridge. If you have a few hours a month to spare, why not volunteer, and give something back to your community. Contact email@example.com for further details.