Freddie the Fridge, London’s first community fridge launched yesterday (Wednesday 8) at Pop Brixton, writes Susan Sheehan. Photographs Sebastian Wood.
The People’s Fridge is a public fridge where local businesses and residents can leave spare, edible food for those who need it. Powered by a crowdfunding campaign, it is run by a group of local volunteers and aims to cut food waste, encourage food sharing and help tackle food poverty.
The People’s Fridge offers a secure, managed place for retailers, restaurants and individuals to share fresh food. Anyone can donate food or take it out and its presence provides a visible focus for cutting food waste and helps boost the sharing economy in London.
Food waste is a huge issue in the UK and is valued at about £17 billion each year. Restaurants throw away 900,000 tonnes of food a year. UK households throw away on average an equivalent of 24 edible meals a month, meaning Lambeth households alone throw away nearly forty million meals each year.
The People’s Fridge began as a seed of an idea among people participating in U.Lab: Grow Your Own Leaders, a course facilitated by Impact Hub Brixton, Lambeth Food Partnership and Incredible Edible Lambeth. The community fridge concept existed in many other countries and the first in the UK had just launched in Frome, Somerset. The idea took root and a crowdfunding campaign raised over £2,200. Since then, many people have been involved in the project in different capacities, from leaflet dropping and food procurement to photography and architecture designs.
The soft launch took place just before Christmas and has been a great opportunity to see how the processes for fridge management and food safety work so that we could iron out any issues ahead of our official launch. The team of volunteers has learnt that meticulousness is key and that a sense of community ownership in the project is what’s needed to motivate the volunteers who keep it running day-to-day.
Donations to the fridge include lots of fruit and vegetables just past their prime, pre-prepared salad ingredients and packets of vegetarian convenience food. Freddie the Fridge has also held dry goods donations like baked beans and tomato juice.
A mix of Impact Hub members, Pop Brixton traders and visitors to the area have benefited from food that would otherwise have gone to waste.
“We’ve still got a big job to get the two hundred or so food traders in Brixton using the fridge to find homes for surplus food. We’re getting great feedback from people using the fridge and our aim is that a broader section of Brixton take home and use the food we’re getting every day. While we’re doing that the fridge is still a visible symbol of efforts to cut food waste and a way to inform people in Brixton about the issue,” said Olivia Haughton, one of the project leads.
The volunteers are working with other food waste activists in Brixton, including the Brixton Pound’s pay-as-you-feel cafe, which is also acting as a hub of information for people who would like to find a home for surplus food or access surplus food for their own projects. They are part of the team, along with Incredible Edible Lambeth, that has set up the Brixton Surplus Food Network which can be found on Facebook.
Lambeth Council leader, Lib Peck, attended the launch event and said “this is a great solution to a complex problem. It represents the collaboration of many people.”