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Reducing food waste and encouraging community spirit

Published: 05/03/2021
Blog article entitled Reducing food waste and encouraging community spirit

Did you know that the average family of four wastes £720 of food a year?  

Enter the community fridge; a space where anyone who lives nearby can exchange surplus food, including businesses so it doesn’t go to waste.  

Did you know that we have a community fridge right here in Ashford? We caught up with Beth Rice the Director of Repton Community Trust to see how community fridges work.

When did you open up the community fridge at Repton Connect Community centre?  

We opened the fridge in May 2019 after reading about a similar initiative in Cornwall. We were Kent’s first Community Fridge and the UK’s 65th. 

Tell us, how does it work? 

A community fridge is a space where anyone can exchange surplus food. It can be accessed by anyone in the community, and anyone can give to or take food from the fridge! There are some rules on what you can and cannot put in the fridge (for health and safety reasons), so do check this when you visit or give us a call to find out more.  

During COVID-19 we’ve adapted to include an on-line ordering system. People can visit our website and order what we have in the fridge. We also post on social media when we have deliveries of fresh food items. People can collect items from our 24hr food lockers outside Repton Connect Community Centre. 

Is the fridge only available to the residents of Repton?  

No, anyone can access the fridge. Simples! 

Community Fridge

Do you know how much food you have saved from going into the bin?  

Each fridge shares one to six tonnes of food per month (and more during the Covid-19 response), the collective impact of the Community Fridge is huge.  

We have heard that the community fridge is often so much more than a fridge. What other opportunities has the community fridge given to the Repton community?  

People told us that they wanted more than a community fridge. Not only did people want to reduce food waste but they were also in need of dry food items, cleaning products and hygiene items. Our ‘Peoples Pantry’ food bank grew from the community fridge. In the last six months we’ve supported over 1000 people all over Ashford and have donated over £5000 worth of goods. Repton residents started their own Facebook group and named our food bank ‘The Peoples Pantry’. It is a huge team effort with lots of residents, businesses and volunteers involved.  

We also recognise that people need support with their mental health during the COVID-19 crisis, so we’ve provided 1658 W-raps (Well-being, recovery, activity, parcels) donated by London charity Re-Instate in our People’s Pantry/Community Fridge orders. 

People can order on- line and we now have food lockers where people can pick up food 24hrs a day. We’ve just started a recipe box scheme working with a food consultant (who also happens to be a Repton resident!). 

Watch this space…there is much more to come! 

Woman using the community fridge

If anyone else was interested in setting up a community fridge, what advice would you give them?  

We would recommend joining Hubbub’s community fridge network. They provide great inspiration and practical ways to further your ideas. They have also been brilliant during the COVID-19 crisis, issuing regular guidance, health, and safety information. They also have a really friendly team. 

We’d also say, ask your community what they want. Ensure the project is community led and that people have a say in what happens. Involve children and young people. Some of our best ideas have come from Wyvern School pupils who use the fridge every week when they volunteer in our community garden. 

Garden produce

We thank Beth for her time and insights into the Community Fridge initiative. 

The growth of this network provides another opportunity to cut food waste which remains a huge issue in the UK, with £13 billion of edible food thrown away from our homes every year and a further £3 billion of food wasted by the hospitality and food service sector. 

As well as reducing food waste, the Fridges encourage a spirit of sharing and can help strengthen community bonds and increase local activities 

If you would like to know more about community fridges and how to set one up, visit Hubbub.