Who are we?
What is a Community Fridge?
Community Fridges are social sites of food education and sharing. They make food that would otherwise be wasted, freely available to anyone who may come in and help themselves to a few items (it is estimated that £3 billion is wasted in the food & hospitality sector each year).
Despite growing awareness of food waste, businesses lack easy ways to pass on food near its ‘use by’ date or just past ‘best before date’. With Community Fridges, surplus perishable food is donated by local businesses, supermarkets or allotments and taken by anyone who can use it. They exist to reduce food waste and foster a spirit of sharing and mutual support within a community. They offer a source of fresh good quality food surplus for everyone. In many cases the most frequent items moving through the fridge are fruit and vegetables.
They operate on a trust basis and are not means tested. Community Fridges have potential to become accessible and inclusive food/sustainability hubs with features such as community herb gardens, food co-ops, swap shops, communal meals, cooking workshops using the produce and much more.
We are proudly part of the ‘Community Fridge Network’ which is a group of Community Fridge projects operating across the UK that are registered with the environmental charity, Hubbub. There are now over 100 across the UK. These are Community Fridges that have met certain quality standards and are committed to supporting each other through sharing learnings and impact. So, Hubbub developed a set of guidelines for running a safe and professional fridge. They have been developed with consultation from the Food Standards Agency, Environmental Health Officers & Sainsbury’s food Safety Team.
We have certain Legal obligations we have to meet such as registering as a food business, so we will get a food hygiene rating, and fulfil Environmental Health standards, have insurance to cover volunteers and the public. This is why I started Fare Divide to be the legal entity behind the Littlehampton Community Fridge, I then thought it would be fantastic to try to help support other communities in West Sussex to start and manage Community Fridges in their area.
Now that you know what we do, let’s talk about specifics! Sarah Renfrey, Founder of the Littlehampton and Horsham Community fridges, gives us the behind the scenes insight:
What is your role and what does it involve?
Officially? Founder? Director? Community Fridge Project Manager? I have many hats in my role currently, I can be cleaning the fridge van out one minute and then be doing the accounts the next. I go from talking through ideas for the website to trying to plan what the future will be for Fare Divide, all whilst getting things in place to help ensure its longevity (as long as there is surplus food to rescue)!
Why do you love your role?
I love my role as we have such a fantastic team of volunteers, both on the ground at Littlehampton and Horsham Community Fridge but also in the background; managing volunteers, collections, looking after the website and social media. It has been a rollercoaster over the past year with operations expanding to far beyond what I thought possible. I’m so pleased that we have such a great team who can adapt to the community’s needs so flexibly and enthusiastically.
What frustrates you about your role?
My role is frustrating in that I never have enough time! Since all at Fare Divide are volunteers, many of us are juggling our time with work and family. But we love to help support the community and rescue food from being wasted!
What is the most difficult obstacle overcome by the fridge so far?
The most difficult obstacles have been finding venues that will take us on. Because Community Fridges are still a relatively new concept, some venues are worried about what’s involved. We are registered as a food business and strive for a 5* hygiene rating. We help bring communities together to feed people and save food, we are also very self-sufficient in what we do, so to me it’s a win-win for the venues!
What about this project makes you the most proud?
The volunteers. Without them, we would be nothing. Their enthusiasm and hard work makes me so proud. What we are doing is so worthwhile and their participation proves that we should keep going to help open more community fridges in West Sussex, and save more good food from being wasted.
How has the team grown in terms of numbers?
We started off with just my husband and I and now we are close to 100 active volunteers!
How has the number of rescuers increased over time?
We started with just a few people visiting the fridge but this quickly grew and we are currently welcoming between 30-50 people per session at Horsham Community Fridge. Littlehampton Community Fridge is upwards of 50 to as many as 100 visiting each session and even more with our Fridge On Tour!
What would you like to say to the companies that donate food, the rescuers and the volunteers?
I would like to say a big thank you to all the companies and people that donate us surplus food, giving it a chance to be eaten (even if it ends up eaten by pets/ rescue animals or farm animals!)It’s so important to use as much food produced as possible in order to prevent a tremendous waste of resources. Of course it’s not just the food itself that is wasted but all of the hard work, time and energy that went into production. This just doesn’t make sense when there are plenty of people who would happily use it!
So thank you to all the food rescuers who come and help save the food from being wasted, we would have a large mountain of food waste if you hadn’t come and helped use it up.
Thank you so much to our supporters and those who have donated to any of our requests, and a massive thank you to all the volunteers, I love that so many are as passionate as me about food waste and supporting the community. So many give so much of their time and hard work to the project which honestly really humbles me.
And finally, to satisfy our curiosity, What’s the strangest thing you have been donated?
A spare wheelbarrow tyre!