Activism

Community Fridge Fund: How selfless volunteers are tackling food waste and hunger in Scotland

As the cost of living crisis bites, community fridges are showing how to reduce food waste and feed hungry families

Empty Kitchens Full Hearts began in the pandemic, but the group of chefs and hospitality workers are now helping hungry families through the cost of living crisis. Image: Empty Kitchens Full Hearts

In a kitchen next to Edinburgh’s Granton Harbour, a group of chefs are hard at work, turning surplus food into healthy meals for those who need them in the community. 

Empty Kitchens Full Hearts, set up by chefs and hospitality workers in the pandemic, sends its meals to people’s homes, collection points and after-school clubs.

Its mission to fight food waste could be supercharged by a £55,000 Community Fridge Fund being launched in Scotland by Zero Waste Scotland, which is aiming to find new ways to stop food being thrown away and reduce carbon emissions.

“Our goal is to make use of food that would otherwise go to waste to help people who are hungry,” said Emily Gifford, fundraising manager at Empty Kitchens Full Hearts.

The majority of Empty Kitchens Full Hearts’ food comes from FareShare. Image: Empty Kitchens Full Hearts

“We use food as a starting point to provide more all-encompassing support. We make initial contact by providing healthy and delicious meals, then our team works to understand more about the other challenges people might be facing and either support them directly or help them access other services.”

Food waste makes up a disproportionate amount of Scotland’s household waste carbon footprint, accounting for 30% despite making up only 18% of household waste by weight.

With demand for emergency food parcels at record levels amid the cost of living crisis, community fridges offer a way for organisations to store and redistribute food to those in need.

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“The Community Fridge Fund recognises the work done by local hubs within the neighbourhoods they serve. The fund can help to grow their capacity to store a wider range of foods for longer, and to share best practice in redistributing or repurposing surplus food,” said Evonne Cannan, food systems and circular bioeconomy manager at Zero Waste Scotland.

It’s not just organisations in Scotland battling food waste. This week, The Big Issue visited the Felix Project’s warehouse in East London, discovering how communities are finding innovative ways to distribute thousands of meals.

Collective action is at the heart of the Community Fridge Fund, say Zero Waste Scotland, with applications for the Scottish fund closing on 3 December.

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“Collective action is the most impactful, and it’s vital we all work together to reduce food waste and tackle the climate crisis. By operating a community fridge, successful applicants will join a growing network of organisations in Scotland committed to doing just that,” said Cannan.

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