A community fridge is a refrigerator (colloquially "fridge") located in a public space. The fridges, sometimes called "freedges", are a type of mutual aid project that enables food to be shared within a community. Some community fridges also have an associated area for non-perishable food. Unlike traditional food pantries, anyone can put food in and take food out without limit, helping to remove the stigma from its use. The main aim of community fridges is to reduce food insecurity, while also mitigating food waste. They enable people facing hardship to have easy access to fresh, nutritious food. Community fridges can also serve as social spaces that enable people to connect to their communities; Shelterforce magazine notes that "community fridges seem to have discovered a sweet spot in service delivery: close enough to feel the warmth of shared humanity, but far enough to avoid a sense of resentment or burden."
In the UK, early community fridges were set up at Frome, South Derbyshire, Brixton (London), and Botley (Oxford). A national network of community fridges was set up in July 2017 by the environmental charity Hubbub UK, which offers a free support service to new projects.
Community fridges are a rapidly-growing phenomenon, with fridges also recently set up in New Zealand, India, Israel, the Netherlands, and Canada (Community Fridges Toronto has seven fridges).
Community fridges have recently made a wide emergence in the U.S. during the COVID-19 pandemic. In New York City, community fridges, nicknamed “Friendly Fridges,” were introduced in February 2020, the first one placed by an activist group, In Our Hearts. In Our Hearts has now set up at least 14 of the 70 fridges around New York City.
Using New York City as a model, community fridges have popped up in cities across the U.S. including Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Chicago, Atlanta, and more. In the Greater Boston Area, the first community fridge was started in Jamaica Plain in September 2020. Soon after, another fridge emerged in the neighborhood of Dorchester, Boston's largest neighborhood. Other fridges in the neighborhoods of Allston and Roslindale, as well as the cities of Somerville and Cambridge, are in the process of development.
In Thailand, entrepreneur Supakit Kulchartvijit's Pantry of Sharing pantry cabinets, a variation on the community fridges, was launched in May 2020 in Bangkok and Rayong. Thailand's SCG Foundation emulated Kulchartvijit's initiative, putting up a total 60 pantry cabinets in the country by 25 May 2020.
The following year in the Philippines as the pandemic dragged on, a trend utilizing a similar concept emerged across the country. Small carts carrying essential items were parked along sidewalks for locals to obtain any of the items without charge. The first such cart to be reported was started by the Members Church of God International on March 14, 2021. Named the MCGI Free Store, it was part of the event The Legacy Continues commemorating the life and legacy of Eli Soriano. An earlier run of the MCGI Free Store was launched on April 6, 2009, which reportedly launched more than 670 branches worldwide.
Also in the Philippines, a similar idea under the term "community pantry" was started on Maginhawa Street in the Teacher's Village neighborhood of Quezon City on April 14, 2021. This initiative gained a wider media coverage than the MCGI initiative, resulting in the mushrooming of hundreds of similar initiatives throughout the country. In about a week after the Maginhawa pantry's launch, more than 100 pantries were set up in various locations; a week thereafter more than 300 pantries had already been set up.
Issues surrounding community fridges include cleanliness, ensuring that the food is safe, and making sure that they are not abused (e.g. that nobody profits from the food). In the UK, setting up a community fridge requires a rota of volunteers to clean the fridge and check the food; public liability insurance; the support of the local authority environmental health officer; and, evidently, a fridge and associated waste bins. Several community fridges in Germany were threatened with closure due to health concerns.
Community fridges are sometimes criticized for only fulfilling immediate need and not providing a systemic solution to food insecurity.
- Rosa, Amanda; Keith, Stephanie (July 8, 2020). "See That Fridge on the Sidewalk? It's Full of Free Food". The New York Times.
- Glenn, Ezra Haber (February 24, 2021). "Community Fridges Provide Vital and Visible Relief in the War on Hunger". Shelterforce. Retrieved February 25, 2021.
- Kassam, Ashifa (June 25, 2015). "The solidarity fridge: Spanish town's cool way to cut food waste" – via The Guardian.
- "Community Fridge Frome - Edventure : Frome".
- "Swadlincote's Community Fridge". October 24, 2016.
- "A community fridge has opened in London to make sure food isn't going to waste". February 16, 2017.
- "Botley community fridge". September 30, 2016.
- "Community Fridge Network to bring social value to food waste fight".
- "Everything you need to know about Auckland's Community Fridge". November 23, 2016.
- "This community fridge in Versova makes sure no one goes hungry - Latest News & Updates at Daily News & Analysis". April 23, 2017.
- "Israel's "The Fridge" Facebook page".
- Engbers, Pascal (October 29, 2020). "Jumbo opent solidaire koelkast tegen probleem van stijgende armoede". Adformatie (in Dutch). Retrieved November 30, 2020.
- Kwong, Evelyn (March 7, 2021). "'Take what you need, leave what you can': How a Toronto network is transforming the way we think about food insecurity". Toronto Star. Retrieved March 8, 2021.
- "Two Community Fridges In Peril Days Before Thanksgiving". www.ny1.com. Retrieved April 27, 2021.
- James, Julissa (July 17, 2020). "Community fridges show up in L.A. neighborhoods to feed those in need". LA Times.
- "Woman Creates Philly's First Community Fridge to Help Those in Need Amid Pandemic". NBC10 Philadelphia.
- Johnson, Christen A. "Community refrigerators throughout Chicago offer free, healthy food". chicagotribune.com.
- Zauner, Brooke (August 28, 2020). "Atlanta entrepreneur battles food insecurity with community fridges". FOX 5 Atlanta.
- "Take What You Need, Leave What You Can At A Community Fridge In Boston". www.wbur.org. September 17, 2020.
- Nanos, Janelle (September 25, 2020). "To combat hunger, neighbors are stocking community fridges on Boston's streets - The Boston Globe". BostonGlobe.com.
- "'Pantry of Sharing': community pantries help Thais in need during COVID-19". www.tourismthailand.org. Retrieved May 6, 2021.
- "SCG Foundation Deploys Over 60 "Pantry of Sharing" Cabinets Nationwide". SCG Foundation. May 25, 2020. Retrieved May 6, 2021.
- "MCGI Free Store, global launch sa March 14, 2021". Radyo La Verdad. March 9, 2021. Retrieved May 2, 2021.
- Rivera, Jerah May (April 14, 2021). "LOOK: Las Piñas store gives free groceries to residents". INQUIRER.net. Retrieved May 2, 2021.
- "MCGI Free Store Now Officially Open with More than 670 Branches". MCGI.org. March 15, 2021. Retrieved May 2, 2021.
- "Everything for Free: MCGI Free Store Launches on March 14". MCGI.org. March 9, 2021. Retrieved May 2, 2021.
- "Get What You Need at MCGI's Free Store | FreebieMNL". freebiemnl.com. April 15, 2021. Retrieved May 2, 2021.
- "LAUNCHING OF MCGI FREE STORE BAGUIO CHAPTER".
- "ALAM MO BA? - The Good News PH". Facebook. Retrieved May 2, 2021.
- "UNTV Radio La Verdad - Mahigit sa 10 taon". Facebook. Retrieved May 2, 2021.
- "MCGI Free Store, timely and relevant — DSWD - UNTV News". UNTV News. March 14, 2021. Retrieved May 2, 2021.
- Cabato, Regine (April 21, 2021). "Community pantries offer reprieve from covid-19 hardships in the Philippines". The Washington Post.
- Del Mundo, Rubi (April 21, 2021). "Mutual Aid, Community Pantries Bring Out the Best in Filipinos and the Worst in Duterte's Inhumane Regime". Philippine Revolution Web Central.
- Dancel, Raul (April 20, 2021). "Community pantries sprout across the Philippines amid flailing govt response to Covid-19 pandemic". The Straits Times. Retrieved April 23, 2021.
- Valenzuela, Nikka G. (April 22, 2021). "Despite 'red-tagging,' community pantries rise to 350, says advocate". Retrieved May 3, 2021.
- Sarao, Zacarian (April 22, 2021). "Timor-Leste takes leaf out of PH's book, sets up own community pantry". Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved April 23, 2021.
- "Botley community fridge -". foodforcharities.wordpress.com.
- "Berlin's Public Refrigerators Were Just Declared a Health Hazard".
- "Freedge Movement: Grassroots Efforts Fight Food Insecurity With Free Refrigerators". NPR.org. September 29, 2020.