Meeting of Oxfordshire community fridges

… well, not the fridges themselves, obviously, but of fridge representatives.  Six of us met yesterday evening, out of the ten Oxfordshire fridges.  The ten fridges are:

  • Abingdon
  • Banbury
  • Barton (E Oxford)
  • Bicester
  • Botley (W Oxford)
  • Jericho (N Oxford)
  • Leys (E Oxford)
  • Wallingford
  • Wantage
  • Witney

The main lessons to come out of the meeting were:

Facebook is an incredibly strong medium for making people aware of the community fridge, of food gluts, and of fridge ‘rules’.  Fridges with good social media volunteers seem to do particularly well.

Limiting food take.  Most of the fridges have some issues regarding people ‘taking too much food’ (see the next point).  Witney has a suggested limit of 5 items.  Some of the other fridges have notices that ask fridge users to think of others, or take only a small shopping bag of items.  Generally fridge users seem to self-police quite nicely, and Witney’s 5 item limit seems to work quite well.  But we agreed that limiting food take is not easy to do.

Is it a problem if some people ‘take too much food‘, or arrive in a big car to take the food, or buy alcohol or cigarettes and also take food from the fridge?  We agreed that the main purpose of the fridges is to reduce food waste; that anyone is welcome to take the food (even drinkers, smokers and drivers of large cars); and that people have all kinds of reasons for taking ‘too much’ food (e.g. the person might also be picking up for someone else).  Also some fridges have 1000+ users (I’m jealous), and it can be expected that food will rapidly go down.  Regular Facebook post about this might help.

Getting food.  The Oxford Food Bank picks up surplus food from a lot of the larger supermarkets in Oxford and Bicester.  The four Oxford community fridges in particular are struggling to get food because of this.  On the one hand, this is lovely because the food is going to good places (the OFB delivers to charities).  On the other hand, it means that the community fridges are limited to the smaller supermarkets that are harder to get to, have less food, and have rapid turnover of staff which means that food supplies often stop until the new staff are trained up.  Happily, the fridges outside Oxford seem to be getting plenty of food.

Growing the fridges.  A couple of fridges are in the process of growing.  The Witney fridge has just got a £500 grant which will probably go towards cooking classes – congratulations!  The Bicester fridge is rapidly outgrowing its shed and may move to larger premises at some point.  The Leys fridge has spawned the Leys community larder


Money to buy FareShare food for the Leys community fridge

Thank you very much to Good Food Oxford for almost £400, a private donation of £250, and £1000 from the Doris Field charitable fund.  Together, they will allow us to buy FareShare food for the Leys community fridge.

FareShare pick up surplus food from wholesalers, unpack and pack it at their regional depots, and deliver it to their recipients.  They charge a bit under £100 per month to pay for their depot and transport.  In return, we will get 50kg of food per week delivered to the community fridge.

We are in the process of figuring out how best to dispense that food, i.e. whether directly through the fridge, or whether to set up a membership-based system where people can buy bags of FareShare food at discounted rates.  Watch this space.

But in the meanwhile, thank you again to the donors that are allowing this to take place.