The average UK household throws approx. £800 unwanted food into landfill each year and aside from the 4 million still living in food poverty and the push for designing better systems to support those in need, there’s also an immediate concern for the life of our planet.
If we as individuals and businesses continue to discard waste into landfill at the current rate, our future generations will experience the negative impact; not only from visual and space limitation aspects, but from breathing air pollutants and long term, seeing harmful gases produced from rotting waste contribute to global warming.
In an attempt to combat this and to inspire positive action in our communities, the Welsh Government have introduced the Landfill Tax Community Scheme. This project injects Landfill Disposal Tax (fees collected from individuals using landfill sites) into innovative projects focusing on educating people to reduce waste and reuse where possible.
One of these projects is Haverfordwest Community Fridge.
Redistributing surplus food
First established in 2016 for villages in Somerset, Derbyshire, and London, the concept of the community fridge was to redistribute unwanted food from businesses (that would otherwise go in the bin) to members of the local community.
This results in preventing food waste from entering landfill and puts edible and nutritious food into peoples’ mouths.
As the community fridge network now celebrates over 50 fridges nationwide and following successful launches of community fridges in Fishguard (Fishguard was first in Wales) and Narberth, Pembrokeshire FRAME opened their doors to Haverfordwest Community Fridge in March this year with support from the LDT, environmental charity Hubbub and Leibherr.
The Haverfordwest fridge is managed by Bu, a personal chef and teacher who is also studying for a qualification in nutrition & health. Bu is extremely passionate about his role and has a great vision for how the project can evolve.
He’s keen to promote the deeper benefits the fridge provides; a sense of sharing, supporting others, educating children to understand why we’re saving waste, plus the importance of realistic buying habits, to satisfy hunger over greed.
From fresh veg to chocolate
Food that journeys through the fridge is within it’s recommended ‘use by’ date and is handled and stored hygienically before collection.
As the community fridge is stocked from local suppliers as and when surplus is generated, the range and quantity of food available varies by the day.
Bread in all its forms is the most common product as its shelf life is so short for commercial sale. In addition, the fridge hosts a diverse range of delicious treats including; fruit, veg, salad, milk, pasta, smoothies, juice, chocolate, sauces. The list is infinite, if it’s edible, it’s potentially available.
Over 1.5 tonnes per month saved from landfill
To gauge the impact on the environment by saving surplus food, fridge users are asked to weigh and record what they take away so the project can equate it to tonnes saved from landfill.
In just 2.5 months since opening, the Haverfordwest Fridge has redistributed 3.75 tonnes of surplus food to the Pembrokeshire community. And this is rising as new food suppliers are welcomed.
Multi purpose foods
As certain foods become a fridge ‘staple’, the need for creativity increases. The Community Fridge Facebook Group are already devising ways to repurpose stale bread (using it as bread crumbs and as a stuffing mix)
The team are also experimenting with recipe ideas for fridge users to provide inspiration for nutritious meals. This little video about Bread and Butter Pudding will make you smile.
Flowers for the soul
Of course flowers aren’t edible, yet they’re a perishable item that usually gets discarded to make way for a fresher replacement.
Bu told me how the community fridge flowers have brightened people’s day… huge quantities were left as surplus after Mother’s Day and so visitors to the fridge not only find food to fill their bellies, but sometimes a fresh bunch of flowers for themselves or to pass on as a gift.
What is there not to smile about?
Giving back as a community
Part of Bu’s vision is to see our community work on reducing waste together. Receiving from the fridge is a wonderful thing, yet to be sure the project remains sustainable, how can we give back?
There are the obvious logistics of manning the fridge and collecting and sorting the food as it arrives on site. There are also ways to encourage more use of the fridge contents, by spreading the word on and offline and developing recipes ideas to inspire the use of certain foods, all of which are possible through volunteer roles.
Bu shared a heart-warming example of how the fridge is connecting people:
A lady was visiting regularly with her children and educating them to choose the foods they take appropriate to what they felt they would genuinely use. One day there was an abundance of bananas in the fridge of which the family took a small amount home.
The next day, the lady returned with a gift for the community fridge team, a home-baked banana bread, made with the bananas they’d taken the previous day.
Not only was this lady grateful for receiving food to feed her family, she also understands the bigger picture, that this project is about receiving and giving back to nurture the relationships we have as humans.
Her delicious bake was gratefully received and shared by smiling staff throughout FRAME.
Community food events
To promote waste-free eating and nurture closer connections, Bu has organised various community meets including a regular ‘grains and cereals swap’ (swap or donate unwanted packets of rice, pasta, lentils, etc.), volunteer coffee mornings and an Easter lunch box service. More events will be announced as the ideas evolve.
Community Fridge is for EVERYONE
It’s important to note the core objective of Community Fridge is to prevent waste from reaching landfill and although the service is also proving a useful resource for those living in financial hardship, the community fridge exists for every member of the community, whatever their financial situation.
Yes, when you visit, think sensibly about how much you need to take from the fridge to ensure everyone can benefit.
However, remember that the fridge is primarily a surplus food initiative and that by using the fridge instead of buying new, you are doing good work for the planet.
Volunteer Roles Available
The Haverfordwest Community Fridge has two important roles that need volunteers to assist with the ongoing efforts to provide food and reduce waste.
Fridge Monitors are responsible for ensuring food stocks in the Community Fridge are safe and good to eat and to maintain fridge cleanliness and hygiene. The fridge and larder needs to be checked when opened and closed each day.
Surplus Food Collector
Food Collectors collect food from local suppliers, sort and place the produce in the fridge or larder as appropriate. The food collection will take about 30 – 60 minutes. Suppliers are in and around the Haverfordwest and local area, with occasional collections from further afield. We ask that you could commit to doing a regular food collection every week.
Find out more
Haverfordwest Community Fridge Manager:
This story is part of the Life Seeker newspaper