Sarah Pharaon, is a Community Fridge KW volunteer. NICK STANLEY PHOTO

An Open Door For Community Fridge

Food insecurity and hunger take several forms in our community, and accommodating the wide range of needs requires a wide range of solutions. Community Fridge KW aims to combat the growing need in our Region by bringing in a fresh new initiative. 

“[The project] seeks to put fridges in public areas where individuals can donate unused food and allow for those who are in need to pick up any food within that fridge,” Angel Zolfiqar, who led the initiation of Community Fridge KW said.

Organizers figured it wouldn’t take too much to start a community fridge here in KW after seeing quite a few going up around the GTA and Windsor. Once the project was initiated, they received a lot of support from the community.

“That’s what’s allowed us to build up a network of up to 40 volunteers that are willing to support us in the day-to-day operations of the fridge. And, overall, we’re really glad to be able to be part of something that has such a positive impact,” Zolfiqar said.

“It’s been incredible to be grounded in this region where we know that there’s a need, we know that 10 per cent of households in the Waterloo Region struggle to put food on the table. At the same time, we know that Canada’s food waste is valued at $27 billion each year,” Kamil Ahmed, another organizer of the project, said. 

Although they are aware that existing initiatives and organizations in the Region that are already helping individuals in need with food security, the purpose of introducing a community fridge is to reduce barriers to access that would normally be there. 

 “In certain instances where you go to a food bank, you may need to prove proof of need … And we acknowledge that not everyone has those things available,” Zolfiqar said. Adding that there are definitely people living in food-insecure situations who may not even realize it.

The fridge accepts low-risk foods, such as non-perishables, fruits, and vegetables, from individuals, and higher-risk foods, such as prepared meals, from businesses since businesses are required to adhere to public health standards. 

Signage on the side of the fridge indicates what donations are acceptable and there is a sheet to log donations. Individuals who have contacted Community Fridge KW with items that are not acceptable have been directed to the organization’s partners, who may be able to accept the donation. 

“Traditionally, community fridges are put in a public area and, more often than not, the goal is to have them outdoors so that they’re accessible 24/7. We, unfortunately, realized that this was not feasible with Zero Waste Bulk … we figured the need is definitely here so let’s get it started now, let’s put it up inside, see how it goes, and we can adapt as necessary,” Zolfiqar said.

Since launching at Zero Waste Bulk on Aug. 25, things have gone well according to the organizers, allowing other food organizations to see the value in having a community fridge.

Community Fridge KW is currently working with a local community centre and a downtown Kitchener business to set up two more potential fridges in the near future. 

Those interested in volunteering with Community Fridge KW can message the organization’s Facebook page.

“[Community Fridge KW] is there for anybody and everybody. Like I said, no questions asked, no purchase necessary in any case, and, you know, if you’re able to use from the fridge one day and donate to the fridge another day, we truly believe that’s our initiative coming full circle,” Zolfiqar said.