The split over social and environmental campaigns

Last week the growth in demand for Food Banks was cited by one side as being an example of failed government policies with the other responding that they are rather uplifting, demonstrating a picture of a compassionate country.

This antagonistic debate can have a hugely detrimental impact on the many volunteers that are delivering amazing campaigns within their neighbourhood and undermines the broader societal good that is being delivered.

Environmental campaigns are no different and - stoked by increasingly divisive politics and harsh voices on social media - are increasingly being dragged into the UK’s culture wars, leading to stigmatisation of environmental action.

How is Hubbub navigating these issues?

There is no doubt that with costs rising many people are struggling to put food on the table. Hubbub’s latest impact report for the Community Fridge Network has revealed that last year 106 new fridges opened bringing the total in the UK to around 270. We estimate that these Community Fridges have redistributed 3,150 tonnes of food - the equivalent of 7,500,000 meals. They have had over 1 million visits and are supported by 3,540 volunteers. Thanks to on-going support from the Co-op, our anticipation is that there will be 500 Community Fridges by the end of 2023.

Community Fridges could be viewed in the same light as Food Banks responding to a growing food security crisis, but this does not reflect the core purpose of the Fridges and how they operate.

At the heart of the Community Fridge Network is the concept of ‘mutual aid’ driven by the belief that community resilience depends on people working together. Community fridges aim to reduce food waste and its impact on the environment. They build stronger communities and support people financially as a place where anybody in the community can give or take surplus food.

This way of operating is particularly important in marginalised communities where Community Fridges can reduce the stigma of going to food banks or asking directly for food. They can be accessed at any time, by anyone, and without the need to register with a local authority or charity.

How many benefits can you fit in a fridge?

The power of the Community Fridge concept is in blurring the boundaries between giver and receiver. Anyone is welcome to give to or take from the fridge. Rather than dependency (the haves giving to the have nots), this fosters interdependency within a community and acknowledges that at any point, one’s role can shift from giver to receiver, or vice versa. The act of taking food is as important as putting food in because it makes sure food isn’t wasted – many Community Fridge visitors go away happy knowing that they’ve done something good for the environment.

The Community Fridge approach also enables communities to explore other ways of providing mutual aid by developing local cooking classes, growing food in communal spaces or sharing skills and knowledge. We are seeing a growing shift towards this wider focus and through the Co-op and Rothschild Foundation we will be supporting 60 fridges within the network to expand the support they provide.

Our hope is that by positioning the Community Fridges as a place where anybody can get involved, some of the divisiveness that is creeping into the environmental debate can be removed and that people will see that they are an inclusive space, open to all.

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