Community fridges are growing in popularity throughout the nation as a tried and tested way of helping to combat the food waste issue. The average family throws away over £500 of food every year according to WRAP (The Waste and Resources Action Programme) and these fridges aim to make that surplus food accessible to the public for free. Several have been opening through Oxfordshire such as in Abingdon and Bicester and hopefully the trend does not stop.
Wednesday 13th 2019 saw the opening party for the new Community Fridge in Witney. The fridge has been up running, quietly finding its feet in Witney Community Support Service for a few months now and is receiving positive feedback from everyone who uses it. Local businesses and individuals donate food routinely every week and this becomes available for collection by anyone who wants or needs it.
Back at the start of the year, co-ordinator of the project James Baughan started volunteering with the Replenish project to see if this was something that could be brought to Witney. The first step involved finding an actual fridge, which was kindly donated by the Oxford Garden Project. Then he needed somewhere to house the fridge. Witney Community Support Service turned out to have the perfect space as they had a separate alcove in their building from where the project could operate. The Centre was also only a few minutes away from the High Street making it easily reachable to residents. It also had suitable opening times from which people could come by and the manager of the site, Pauline Kearney, was extremely supportive.
A regular influx of food became established through tapping into an organisation called FareShare who had links with several Supermarkets. Soon came the involved of places like Tesco, The Co-Operative, Marks and Spenser’s and individuals could also take in their own goods, so long as it follows the guidelines. Recently one volunteer brought in around 50kg of food that would otherwise be wasted. Some days they say that there are no goods, which is a positive sign as it indicates the minimisation of waste. Acceptable items to donate include unopened things like cheese, fresh fruit and vegetables, bread and pastries, table sauces and fresh Lion-stamped eggs. Unacceptable things include meat or fish, cooked foods from home and alcohol.
A group of about 20 enthusiastic volunteers currently are helping with the new fridge in Witney, each having allocated days to collect the food from large stores and deliver it to The Centre. Here they also are responsible for checking best before dates, weighing out the goods, disposing of anything that is past its best and keeping up the general maintenance of the space. They also run a Facebook page where whats been donated that day are posted and recipes for using up leftovers are encouraged which reinforces that sense of community through people supporting one another and being positive about tackling the issue at heart.
The team are happy with the way things are running now and that the fridge is fulfilling its purpose for community. One resident says she finds the fridge increasingly useful when money becomes tight towards the end of the month and another speaks how it reminds her of the days of food rationing when food was much more valuable and the amount of good available were limited.
The fridge can be found Witney Community Support Service, Moorland Rd, OX28 6LS and is open Mondays to Fridays 9:30am – 3:30pm. Occasionally there are bonus openings during other times and weekends depending on food availability. For more details see their Facebook page.