Foodbanks have become a feature of many communities in recent years, but Scarborough’s recently opened Community Fridge serves as environmental purpose as well as feeding those who struggle to meet their bills.
Unlike conventional food banks – where users are generally referred by another agency – a primary purpose of the Community Fridge is to prevent produce that would go unsold from going into landfill.
As a result, the project is open to anyone who wants to collect food, regardless of their circumstances, and it is estimated around half the clients are driven to do so by environmental principles rather than economic need.
A national network of Community Fridges exists and although they have central support, each is run independently and all are different.
In Scarborough, it is operated by a bank of around 40 volunteers and at present opens on Saturday mornings, handing out between 400 and 500 kilos of food which would otherwise up in the bin.
It is expected that around 100 people are fed from the project each week, with enough produce given out to feed the average person for five days.
That has a significant impact on family budgets where finances are strained, but also means Community Fridge is able to operate a zero waste policy, keeping food out of the bin.
Any food that cannot be distributed is composted for use in a community garden.
The aim for the future is to expand so the Fridge, based at The Street in Scarborough town centre, opens more frequently and to explore opportunities for teaching people more about sustainable cookery.
Spokeswoman Vicki Wright said the Fridge had been planned for some time, but only actually started to operate in October.
“The idea is we collect food which cannot be sold, for whatever reason, and make sure it doesn’t go in the bin but is handed out to people who can use it.
“Our volunteers are all food hygiene trained and the food is handed out for free. Everyone is welcome, there is no need to prove a need for food and people can come as often as they want,” she said.
Many volunteers have become involved with the Fridge because of the environmental benefits, and because the service is used by different people in different circumstances there is no stigma attached to using it.
Changes at The Street mean Scarborough Community Fridge will need to find a new home shortly. They are actively looking for a suitable venue and would welcome suggestions from any organisation which may be able to help.
Do you want to set up a community fridge?
A new round of funding to support community fridges in North Yorkshire has opened.
Are you a community group or not-for-profit interested in reducing food waste?
In partnership with the Co-op, environmental charity Hubbub is looking to support 100 community organisations across the UK to establish a new community fridge. Until 20 September, the charity is offering groups £4,000 funding to cover start-up and running costs, plus free membership to the Community Fridge Network, along with full support, information and guidance on how to get your project started. To find out more and apply, check out Hubbub’s webpage.