New community fridges will redistribute 6.8 million meals a year

Co-op and Hubbub have today announced a major new partnership to fast-track the expansion of the Community Fridge Network across the UK.   Investment from Co-op will see 100 new fridges opening, building on our existing network of almost 150. These new community fridges could help save a further 6.8 million meals a year from going to waste.

Community fridges are spaces where everyone – regardless of means – can share fresh food that would otherwise have gone to waste.  The food is largely donated by businesses – with Co-op donating surplus food from its stores.  We estimate that the average community fridge shares almost 6,000 meals’ worth of food in the community every month.  

As well as improving access to food, many fridges go beyond this by empowering communities to connect with each other and learn new skills through activities such as cookery sessions and workshops on how to grow your own.    

One of the first fridges established through the new partnership has been opened this week in Failsworth, Greater Manchester at the Co-op Academy.  Following this, 15 new community fridges are set to open their doors this month, including one in Wythenshawe, South Manchester – the home turf of Marcus Rashford, who has backed the partnership. 

"The Co-op is a valuable founding member of the Child Food Poverty Taskforce and has consistently stepped up to the plate throughout the Global pandemic to support our most vulnerable families. They have demonstrated how community action can make real sustainable change and just how powerful we can be when we come together. Together with Hubbub, the Co-op has developed a programme that spans far beyond access to food and I'm so excited to see that my own community in Wythenshawe will benefit." Marcus Rashford MBE

For Hubbub, the rapid expansion of the Community Fridge Network is a validation of the values and approach we have taken since our launch seven years ago.

Test and Learn

From the start we sought to test new ideas on a small scale, to learn from this experimentation, refine the approach and then create a scalable model. The first community fridge in our network was established in the Derbyshire town of Swadlincote. Having demonstrated that the idea was viable, we set-up a second fridge in the very different setting of Camberwell, London. Building on these experiences we have developed a range of resources helping local groups to establish fridges in their communities.

Collaboration

We have long believed that local organisations are best placed to understand and deliver activities that meet the needs of their community. Community fridges are run and resourced by a wide variety of local groups. Hubbub supports these groups by providing resources, opening doors to corporate supporters, building connections with other groups and offering guidance on issues such as health and safety.

The partnership with Co-op will build on this philosophy. The new funding will provide grants of up to £4,000 to 100 local groups, helping them to cover running costs such as volunteer expenses, insurance and cleaning materials. 

Accessibility

Our focus has been on reducing food waste and from the start we were determined that community fridges should be a community resource accessible to all. In practice this has seen the fridges being used as spaces where people can share a glut of home-grown fruit and vegetables, time and skills as well as a source of free food.

Building community resilience

As Covid-19 has starkly demonstrated, everyday lives can be buffeted by global events such as pandemics and our changing climate. Supporting communities through these turbulent times requires new skills, greater community cohesion and making the most of the resources we have available. Community fridges provide a great focal point for these things to happen and Hubbub is working with local groups to help them further develop.

Co-op shares these values, which makes it a natural partner for the expansion of the Community Fridge Network. As their Chief Executive Officer, Steve Murrells, says “Thanks to our members and customers, we’re delighted to be partnering with Hubbub on such an innovative scheme that will  bring communities together,  empowering people towards community-led food solutions that will help to build community resilience.”

For more information on The Community Fridge Network, including a map of fridge locations and advice for those interested in setting up a community fridge, head over here.