London’s first community fridge launches in Brixton

Written by on February 9, 2017 in Brixton Stories, Campaigns, Community, Food, News - 6 Comments
The People's Fridge Launch at Pop BrixtonFreddie the Fridge, London’s first community fridge launched yesterday (Wednesday 8) at Pop Brixton, writes Susan Sheehan. Photographs Sebastian Wood.

The People’s Fridge is a public fridge where local businesses and residents can leave spare, edible food for those who need it. Powered by a crowdfunding campaign, it is run by a group of local volunteers and aims to cut food waste, encourage food sharing and help tackle food poverty.

The People’s Fridge offers a secure, managed place for retailers, restaurants and individuals to share fresh food. Anyone can donate food or take it out and its presence provides a visible focus for cutting food waste and helps boost the sharing economy in London.

Food waste is a huge issue in the UK and is valued at about £17 billion each year. Restaurants throw away 900,000 tonnes of food a year. UK households throw away on average an equivalent of 24 edible meals a month, meaning Lambeth households alone throw away nearly forty million meals each year.

People at the launch of the people' fridgeThe People’s Fridge began as a seed of an idea among people participating in U.Lab: Grow Your Own Leaders, a course facilitated by Impact Hub Brixton, Lambeth Food Partnership and Incredible Edible Lambeth. The community fridge concept existed in many other countries and the first in the UK had just launched in Frome, Somerset. The idea took root and a crowdfunding campaign raised over £2,200. Since then, many people have been involved in the project in different capacities, from leaflet dropping and food procurement to photography and architecture designs.

The soft launch took place just before Christmas and has been a great opportunity to see how the processes for fridge management and food safety work so that we could iron out any issues ahead of our official launch. The team of volunteers has learnt that meticulousness is key and that a sense of community ownership in the project is what’s needed to motivate the volunteers who keep it running day-to-day.

Donations to the fridge include lots of fruit and vegetables just past their prime, pre-prepared salad ingredients and packets of vegetarian convenience food. Freddie the Fridge has also held dry goods donations like baked beans and tomato juice.

A mix of Impact Hub members, Pop Brixton traders and visitors to the area have benefited from food that would otherwise have gone to waste.

“We’ve still got a big job to get the two hundred or so food traders in Brixton using the fridge to find homes for surplus food. We’re getting great feedback from people using the fridge and our aim is that a broader section of Brixton take home and use the food we’re getting every day. While we’re doing that the fridge is still a visible symbol of efforts to cut food waste and a way to inform people in Brixton about the issue,” said Olivia Haughton, one of the project leads.

The volunteers are working with other food waste activists in Brixton, including the Brixton Pound’s pay-as-you-feel cafe, which is also acting as a hub of information for people who would like to find a home for surplus food or access surplus food for their own projects. They are part of the team, along with Incredible Edible Lambeth, that has set up the Brixton Surplus Food Network which can be found on Facebook.

Lambeth Council leader, Lib Peck, attended the launch event and said “this is a great solution to a complex problem. It represents the collaboration of many people.”

For more information here or email 
twitter.com/peoplesfridge

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6 Comments on "London’s first community fridge launches in Brixton"

  1. Jose February 10, 2017 at 10:44 pm · Reply

    Fantastic initiative – location can be worked on incrementaly as the project gains traction. Well done on the innovation.

  2. Ben Longman February 10, 2017 at 12:09 pm · Reply

    I am one of the project team for the Fridge and would like to respond to good points raised by Andrea and Auntie M above.

    **Why POP Brixton?**

    POP Brixton provides secure electrical power to the fridge for free and a site for the The People’s Fridge. Food traders within POP Brixton volunteer on a rota to provide the vital daily checks needed to keep the fridge clean, opened/closed at the right times and temperature monitored. Without power, a secure site and volunteers The People’s Fridge could not operate and we’re really grateful for their support.

    **Why don’t you put it on the street?**

    The People’s Fridge effectively operates as a registered food outlet, which means, for example, it is held to commercial standards of food safety.

    From the outset, we have aimed to place The People’s Fridge in a public, street-facing site so that it is as open and accessible as possible. We know that having it within a leisure site such as POP Brixton limits its access and visibility. Much as we would like to, we cannot just slip the fridge under a railway arch or a building overhang.

    We are currently working with Lambeth Council, who have understandable concerns about the impact of siting the fridge in a public place, to work out the right balance between safety/impact on one side and access/usability on the other.

    **Is The People’s Fridge a gimmick**

    The Fridge is first and foremost designed to provide a local place for food surplus. It is already doing that, and helping find a new home for kilos of edible food that would otherwise go to waste. It is part of a range of solutions to cut food poverty but we do not claim that by itself it is a panacea for food poverty.

    I hope that helps provide some more insight into the thinking behind the fridge, how and why it is where it is. We welcome feedback and welcome any local involvement we can get. If you would like to join us and help us make the fridge a long term success, please do. We can be reached at peoplesfridge@gmail.com

    • Andrea February 10, 2017 at 1:48 pm · Reply

      Fair enough, we understand the limitations better now. Still, I do not agree with the location. The target audience will so be put off to enter ‘gentrification ‘ hotspot Pop with security and trendy youngsters staring at them. How about Brixton library or Brixton pound cafe? So much better suited, I bet a team of volunteers could easily put together for daily clearing, electricity provided and secure.

    • Auntie M February 10, 2017 at 3:02 pm · Reply

      Thanks for taking the time to respond Ben. I appreciate the difficulties (esp. working with the council!). I echo Andrea’s point about places like the pound cafe and the library. Pop is somewhat offputting. (Even to those of us with some money who have been in and around Brixton for years.) Those other locations are kind of more ‘community’ feeling. And there’s also the Rec…

  3. Andrea February 10, 2017 at 10:22 am · Reply

    These were exactly my thoughts, inside Pop Brixton?! Are they serious?! This obviously wasn’t thought through or another ‘Pop’ gimmick as the above reader rightly pointed out. Please move it to just around the corner for example underneath the Brixton Rec overhang. Protected from rain and still easy to manage if people based at Pop are involved in managing it.
    Great idea otherwise.

  4. Auntie M February 10, 2017 at 9:30 am · Reply

    I wonder if this really gets to the people who need it? The People’s Fridge is located at the back of Pop Brixton which is something of a tourist destination in Brixton and with security on the gates deterring homeless people from entering and tainting the trendy Hoxton-like beardy young vibe of the place. It might get allotment carrots to the occasional strapped-for-cash student but to really needy. Are they even going to bother to attempt to go there? something smacks of nice middle class folk patting each other on the back here. And I write as one myself. I am by the way, totally prepared to be shouted down on this one – tell me its really meeting the needs of the new austerity underclass and I’ll swallow my words.

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