What Is a Community Fridge? Think Little Free Pantry With Electricity

A Freedge, or community fridge, is full of fresh vegetables. (Photo: Snapshot from Instagram)

By now you know about the awesome Little Free Library movement, the free public boxes where people can leave books or grab books. More recently, Little Free Pantries have popped up with the same theme, but focused on non-perishable food and household items.

And now we can add community fridges to this public "leave what you can, take what you need" movement. These refrigerators allow people, gardeners and businesses to quickly get perishable foods into the hands of those who need them. Not all community fridges are on the small scale of Little Free Libraries or Little Free Pantries, but they can be.

Community fridge program in the U.K.

Like all developed countries, the United Kingdom has a big food waste problem. One solution is the community fridge, an idea launched by the Hubbub Foundation in 2016. Even though there's growing awareness of the food waste problem, people and businesses don't always have a way of quickly getting perishable foods into the hands of those who need them. Community fridges solve that problem.

Not only can individuals donate items from their own refrigerators or gardens, but grocery stores can, too. Most community fridges in the U.K. can be found in universities, community centers and other easily accessible places. One well-stocked refrigerator can redistribute half a ton of food a month, according to information provided in the video above. There are currently 50 of these fridges in the U.K., but CBC reports that the charity organization has a goal to add another 50 by the end of 2020.

Some of these locations also offer cooking and exercise workshops. People who get food from the refrigerators are often introduced to fruits and vegetables they've never tried before.

The Freedge: Help on a smaller scale

A Freedge is another type of community helper. These small refrigerators are more on the scale of the Little Free Libraries and Pantries. The Freedge organization promotes the installation of public refrigerators where food and ideas can be shared at the neighborhood level. Currently, there are fridges in North America, South America and Europe.

A Freedge is outdoors, usually in an open shed to keep it safe from the elements. Anyone can add food or take it. Those who put the community fridge up are responsible for checking it daily, removing any food that's not fit for consumption, and cleaning it once a week.

The organization's website has information about the legalities of it all — not all states allow them. The Freedge organization can help those who would like to build a freedge and put in on their front lawn, at a school or church, or even in front of a grocery store, figure out the legalities of it, including what foods can be added. Often fresh meats and dairy are excluded because they can contaminate other foods.

Hubbub and Freedge aren't the only two organizations supporting community fridges. In Aukland, New Zealand, Love Food Hate Waste has placed one in the middle of a community garden. In Dubai, there's the Sharing Fridge campaign. In Spain, they're called Solidarity Fridges.

No matter what these refrigerators are called that allow people and businesses to donate fresh food to those who need it, without having to jump through a lot of hoops, are called, they're an excellent idea - one that needs to keep growing.