Activism

Community fridges are helping tackle Britain's growing food waste crisis

Could a scheme that allows residents to donate their surplus produce help tackle Britain's £13bn food waste problem?

Food waste Dano Flickr

Towns across the UK are battling food waste by setting up community fridges that give everyone access, regardless of their financial situation.

With the average UK family wasting £470 worth of food a year,the initiative, launched by environmental charity Hubbub, allows locals to donate their surplus fruit, vegetables and perishables to the referral-free food bank.

The Hubbub network currently supports 32 fridge projects across England, Scotland and Ireland with creative partner Tessa Tricks taking inspiration from across Europe.

“We were inspired to explore what [the fridges] could do in the UK to normalise a spirit of sharing, bring communities together and reduce food waste,” Tricks said.

“There’s a huge amount of great work going on in terms of food redistribution at the moment and we see that the community fridges are really complementing that.” 

Community fridges first piqued the charity’s interest when they popped up in Spain, India and Germany with Hubbub’s first community fridge appearing in Swadlincote, Derbyshire in 2016. 

“We knew that setting up a successful community fridge was complex so we asked ourselves how we could support communities in delivering fridges that are safe, impactful and sustainable long term,” Tricks said.

“What could we do to take out some of the legwork whilst giving groups the autonomy to set up a fridge in a way that best meets the needs of their community?” 

The charity came up with a solution – The Community Fridge Network, backed by the Big Lottery. Through this, local groups have access to a free guidance service and bespoke design support. 

Fridges are already up and running in Sheffield, Oxford, Brighton and Ballymena, with more soon to launch in Glasgow and Dundee and some even sparking youth cooking workshops and community dinners.

However those who wish to join the Community Fridge Network must fulfil a set of requirements in order to be accepted. For example, groups must register their fridge as a food business in order to gain support from their local environmental health officer and receive a hygiene rating. They must also adhere to a strict health and safety procedure. 

Tessa said the initiative is making significant progress toward its goal of redistributing 350 tonnes of food that would otherwise have been wasted.  

The latest addition, comes in Dundee, where plans for the first community fridge in Scotland are underway by Gates Church. 

Joyce Reid, carbon-saving project assistant at the church, told The Courier: “Quite a lot of places are taking it up so we thought it would be good for Dundee. 

“It’s about promoting fresh food and healthy living. It’s different from a food bank as you need a referral for that and they don’t offer free food.” 

Wading into new technologies, the charity is currently testing the use of appliances such as smart fridges with a wifi-enabled touchscreen and app which helps with stock management and recipe ideas and supermarket giants are getting on board as well.

The Morrisons Foundation donated £45,000 to the Community Fridge Network earlier this year.

Foundation trustee David Scott said: “We are delighted to support the Community Fridge Network and their efforts to ensure that more edible surplus food is redistributed rather than thrown away.” It is hoped that the Community Fridge Network will inspire a shift to more efficient food systems.  

As part of this, Hubbub will be piloting a cargo bike scheme to combat the harmful emissions of the cars used to drop items at the community fridge, as “getting food from A to B is one of the biggest struggles that the fridges face”.  

Image: Hrushikesh Kulkarni/Wikimedia Commons

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
Vendor martin Hawes

Recommended for you

View all
'We are here and we exist': Inside the neighbourhood offering sanctuary to queer Russians and Ukrainians
Pride

'We are here and we exist': Inside the neighbourhood offering sanctuary to queer Russians and Ukrainians

Actor Liz Carr says it hurts to hear her younger self 'wanted to die'
Liz Carr
Disability rights

Actor Liz Carr says it hurts to hear her younger self 'wanted to die'

Feeling like change in the UK isn't possible? Let these 28 purposeful campaigns prove otherwise
Activism

Feeling like change in the UK isn't possible? Let these 28 purposeful campaigns prove otherwise

Back to Black actor Eddie Marsan: 'There aren't any no-go areas in Tower Hamlets'
London

Back to Black actor Eddie Marsan: 'There aren't any no-go areas in Tower Hamlets'

Most Popular

Read All
Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits
Renters: A mortgage lender's window advertising buy-to-let products
1.

Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal
Pound coins on a piece of paper with disability living allowancve
2.

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over
next dwp cost of living payment 2023
3.

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know
4.

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know