In a nutshell
Who are you?
Sam Pitch, Brookside Big Local Coordinator
What did you do?
A community fridge project.
Why did you do it?
Health and wellbeing are part of our Big Local plan. Last year 48% of children were living in poverty in the Shropshire-Telford area and food poverty here is shocking.
What’s the benefit?
It helps people source good food. Stops good food going to landfill.
What was your biggest fear?
That it wasn’t going to work. That people wouldn’t use it because there would be a stigma around it.
Planning and finance
Start planning immediately. Definitely plan a bit more than we did, is what I’d say.
First contact FareShare who deal with all the waste food from supermarkets. We’ve had supermarkets who want to give us food but they aren’t allowed – they’ve had to go through FareShare. It’s the areShare link which is the most time consuming. Start early with applications to FareShare and also Hubbub (see below)
We were really lucky and had our fridge donated by Sainsburys. If I were raising money again I’d think about supermarkets – some give their customers counters to choose a cause. That can be a great way to raise the finance.
Where to put it
We had to get permission to pop it into the community centre and get a formal agreement from the trustees there.
It will obviously need to go inside and somewhere people can keep an eye on it.
Food hygiene, systems and regulations for volunteers
Then I had to register with FareShare.org.uk and hubbub.org.uk. Hubbub are really amazing people who fight waste in a number of ways.
You can only get food from supermarkets through the FareShare scheme if you have gone through Hubbub to get the checks. These include: registering with the local authority to get a food hygiene rating; risk assessment of fridge to make sure it is in a safe space; volunteers’ food hygiene certificates (to Level 1 or 2) and insurance. I didn’t realize everyone who deals with food has to have a certificate – anyone who collects food from supermarkets; transporting food (it needs to stay between 3-5 degrees), people who clean the fridge need to know how long it can stay open, how to check the temperature and how to report any problems.
We have a thermometer in the fridge for daily use. A gun thermometer also helps us know the food is the right temperature in all parts of the fridge when we double check once every quarter.
We don’t accept any raw meat, eggs or fish. That was my decision as I wanted to safeguard our fridge and didn’t want any mishaps. If it’s a pack of veg we can accept it, but we can’t accept people cooking a meal and giving it to us. However, if it’s a business, then for example the local café has over made lasagna then they can put a sticker on with an eat-by date and we’ll take it.
Anything that goes in the fridge has a 3-day life, due to health and safety. The food has to be used fairly quickly.
We bought the biggest fridge we could find, but it’s never full.
I’d advise people maybe to start with a smaller one first and then upgrade later on, once you know you can fill it. Just to give an indication, we have one supermarket giving us between 2 to 6 bags a day at the moment and that’s half full.
You can buy a domestic fridge, but you can’t see through the doors with those.
We made loads of promotional materials ready for the launch.
After we purchased the fridge we went into every school. We needed to advertise the presence of the fridge. We also hand delivered letters to supermarkets. It’s a very new thing, so you need to explain. A lot of food businesses were very unsure – they thought we just wanted fresh food off the shelf. I’ve never spoken so much about a fridge in my life. The Co-Op went away and had to speak to management and ask whether they could give food away that’s going out of date – they are our main supplier now.
I think nobody would know what to do if you just plonked a fridge there, so this is very important.
We wanted to make it stand out a little bit so we spoke to a local marketing company. They came up with the signs to let people know how to use the fridge. They did a brilliant job. That came out of our initial budget for the project.
Launch & promotion
Last step is your launch and then your continued promotion – trying to get more supermarkets on board. It’s an ongoing project.
It works really well with our community garden project – the food that is grown there fills the fridge.
If someone is a bit cautious they soon see the staff and everyone using it, like “I’m having that swede for my supper tonight”. It’s definitely a success.
We fill it up at about 9 and probably everything goes by 2pm. We have a Facebook page and people from other parts of town message us, asking if they can come down, so we’re spreading outside our very small estate. It’s brilliant that we can do our bit to avoid a vast mountain of food going into landfill. It’s a bonus to help people.