On 20 July sustainability charity Hubbub announced it was partnering with Sainsbury’s and Bosch to launch a seemingly ground-breaking initiative to combat food waste – The Community Fridge Network.
A Community Fridge, says Hubbub, is a fridge that sits within the heart of a community and is stocked with surplus food from local businesses and households and is open to everyone in the community to access.
£13 billion of food is thrown away each year by UK households rather than being eaten and a further £3 billion of food is wasted by the hospitality and food service sector. Despite increasing awareness of the issue of food waste, until now there have been limited options for households and food businesses to get surplus perishable food to those who need it safely and within the ‘use-by’ date. Some of the most commonly wasted food from UK homes includes fresh fruit and vegetables, bread, meat and ready meals. Meanwhile cafés and restaurants often dispose of sandwiches and cooked food if they can’t sell it on the day it’s made.
The Community Fridge concept has been successfully trialled in Spain and Germany. These projects formed the basis of a pilot in Swadlincote, Derbyshire last year funded by Sainsbury’s as part of its Waste less, Save more programme, to help customers save money by throwing away less food. The pilot used a fridge and freezer supplied by Bosch.
The first five new Community Fridges will open this month in Milton Keynes, three locations in North London (Manor House, Leytonstone and Old Street) and Northern Ireland and the planned roll out over the next year will see more pop up across the UK from Bournemouth to Tyneside. Existing independent Community Fridges, including the Swadlincote fridge and others in Camberwell, Frome and Brixton are also joining the network to add their combined efforts to the food waste fight.
Since the Sainsbury’s Swadlincote pilot, Hubbub has been inundated with enquiries from people wanting to set up a Community Fridge. Some of the challenges faced by Community Fridge Organisers are around the legal requirements and food hygiene. The Community Fridge Network will provide free advice and support to Community Fridge organisers and act as a hub to enable disparate communities to share their experiences and learn from each other.
Paul Crewe, Head of Sustainability, Engineering & Energy of Sainsbury’s said: “Following on from the huge success of the Swadlincote pilot – which saw over 9,000 items of food redistributed in just seven months – we are delighted to support The Community Fridge Network. This innovative trial has shown us that one small town can save over 500kg of food every month so this is a fantastic opportunity for even more people to reduce their food waste and save money. As a business, we are committed to helping our customers reduce their food waste via our Waste less, Save more campaign, while at the same time we are always looking for ways for us to reduce our own food surplus. Up until now, we’ve been providing over 1,000 local charities up and down the UK with surplus food that doesn’t need refrigeration – so this now gives us the opportunity to provide chilled surplus food to those that need it most.”
Trewin Restorick, CEO and co-founder of Hubbub said: “Communities have long demonstrated an incredible ability to pull together to makes positive things happen and I’m delighted that there is growing support for this movement to tackle food waste at a community level. It’s great to see healthy perishable food going to those who need it most and we would love to hear from other communities who might be interested in joining us.”
More information on The Community Fridge Network, including a map of fridge locations and advice for those interested in setting up a community fridge can be found at www.hubbub.org.uk/communityfridgenetwork.
This initiative has been made possible with funding from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, North London Waste Authority, The Funding Network and Sainsbury’s and with fridges and freezers donated by Bosch.