Southern Co-op has made a donation of £40,000 to make more surplus food will be available at ten separate locations across the south.
The regional co-operative is supporting the community fridges via Hubbub as part of its measures to reduce food waste and tackle food insecurity in local communities.
Four community fridges are already open to the public in Bristol, Basingstoke, Chichester and Uckfield, with three more planned for Hayling Island, Adur and Worthing, and three still to be confirmed.
The fridges work on an honesty basis and are usually housed in publicly accessible places, making surplus food freely available to members of the public. Surplus perishable food is donated by local businesses, charities such as FareShare or members of the public and then made available for all. The fridges are available for anyone to use.
Catherine Waters-Clark, Founder & CEO of Inspero which operates a community food pantry and fridge in Kempshott Village Hall, Basingstoke, said: “Inspero is implementing a Community Fridge to complement its existing community shop to support people impacted by the cost of living crisis.
“This means that we turn around two to three tonnes of surplus food each week, some of this can be frozen as well as fruit and vegetable produce from our charity community garden for the public’s benefit.
“If produce has gone too far, we compost it to make it into compost tea and manure for the plants at the community garden. It is a great extra facility to have in place and means less food goes into landfill and access to good food is available to support vulnerable older people and families struggling.”
Sophie Downard-Hough, Community Fridge Coordinator at BELTA (Bristol Estate landholder and tenant association) which opened its fridge in August, said: “We work alongside the kitchen that is run by Sussex Surplus Tuesday-Thursday, so we stock our fridge/shelves with meals and products that we make for a café that Sussex Surplus run on Thursdays, which also happens to be when we get the most people in using the fridge.
“The feedback we’ve got so far from locals that use the fridge has been nothing short of positive, it’s been a real help to the residents that live on the estate as we are based in a fairly deprived area of Brighton.”
Other existing community fridges supported by Southern Co-op are in in Uckfield which opened in February and in Chichester run by Chichester Community Development Trust which opened in January.
Other community fridges supported by Southern Co-op which are not yet open are Hayling Island Community Centre Association CIO, SHOUT Worthing Soup Kitchen and The EYE Project which is working to bring a community fridge to a Worthing school.
The Community Fridge Network, which is hosted by Hubbub, estimated that in 2021 its network stopped 3,150 tonnes of food going to waste and shared 7,500,000 meals worth of food. There are currently more than 350 fridges across the UK.
Holly Bramble, Community Lead at Southern Co-op, said: “Whilst we already make sure all of the food from our stores gets eaten or processed into biogas, it’s just as important that we enable communities to also reduce their own food waste.
“These fridges bring together people from the local area and can be the spark to building the local community spirit. They are often run by volunteers who share our passion for sustainability, so it is has been wonderful getting to meet some of those involved.”
Southern Co-op has recently rolled out initiatives designed to save food that has gone past its best before date – either by reducing it to 20p or donating it to local good causes. All of its stores also offer Too Good To Go – the surplus food app that lets users rescue ‘Magic Bags’.