Resource Use

Volunteers tackle food waste through Devon Community Fridges

Volunteers from across Devon have come together for multiple ‘Community Fridges’ to target food waste, ensuring that surplus food finds a new home.

Devon Community Fridges
Community Fridges in Devon have seen rapid expansion and there are now 25 fridges across Devon with more on the way – rising from just a few locations in 2019.

The primary aim of the Community Fridge initiative is to tackle the carbon footprint involved in food production and transportation by ensuring that ‘good food’ that may have passed its ‘best before’ date is made available for free – namely fruit and vegetables, bakery items or other non-perishables. Food items that have surpassed their ‘use by’ date are not accepted due to both safety and legal requirements.

By ensuring that surplus food is consumed rather than wasted, the Community Fridge initiative ensures that the embedded carbon within food – from the energy, water and fertilisers used in its production – is put to good use.

Though each fridge is run differently, overall, it is estimated that the fridges redistribute more than 150 tonnes of surplus food, worth almost £500,000, each year, a carbon footprint equivalent to driving over two million miles.

Speaking on the need for Community Fridges, Maresa Bossano who runs the St Thomas Library Community Fridge, commented: “Food going to waste is a large contributor to climate change so by using the Community Fridge we all get to play our part in helping the environment.”

How the Devon Community Fridges operate

Surplus food is largely collected by volunteers from local businesses, though some of the county’s fridges also take food from households. Following a visual check, to ensure the food has been stored correctly and its original packaging is intact, it is then made available within the Community Fridges.

The fridges themselves operate on a self-serve and honesty basis, where visitors are expected only to take a handful of items to ensure that food is still available to others who visit the fridge.

Sorrel from the Community Fridge in Okehampton said: “Volunteering for our Community Fridge has opened the door to learning new things, such as food safety and helping share surplus food with lots of people which has made me feel more connected to my community. The Community Fridge is developing the town’s resourcefulness – and mine too!”

Emma Croft who runs the National Lottery-funded ‘Food Rescue’ project in Devon which includes two Community Fridges added: “Community Fridges are a visible sign of people caring for each other and the environment within their community with the idea of sharing food with others being something that can bring people together.”

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