A team of Waterloo students are currently working to bring the Community Fridge project to the region. Community fridges have already been successfully established in the Greater Toronto Area, Calgary and Windsor.
The fridges are located in public spaces where individuals and businesses can donate fresh food for community use. These sites will allow access at no cost, also supporting the reduction of food waste within the region.
Behind the scenes of Community Fridge KW, you’ll find a small group of vastly educated and highly motivated young females. Angel Zolfiqar is a recent Political Science graduate from Wilfrid Laurier University, returning in September to complete a Master in Business Administration. Sarah Pharaon, an Undergraduate Chemistry student at the University of Waterloo. Nicole Skinner is a recent Master of Communications graduate from Wilfrid Laurier University.
“What inspires me to give back to the community is the people,” said Zolfiqar. “Providing them with easy access to healthy food or alternative options to reduce waste while contributing to society provides me with a feeling of fulfillment that is unparalleled.”
“The pandemic has created additional pressures such as reduced income, job loss and health issues. These challenges can result in high levels of food insecurity, which is why we are determined to launch this initiative as soon as possible.”
Pharaon is a member of the equity services team at the Waterloo Undergraduate Student Association. “Being a woman and a person of colour, it made sense for me to take part in the Women’s Centre and RAISE (Racial Advocacy for Inclusion, Solidarity and Equity) - to offer support to other racialized students on campus,” she said.
She became a part of this project as a result of the inspiring work she saw from others who brought community fridges to their regions. “I could see the impact that this project had on their communities and how it helped various groups of people,” she said. “I wanted to do the same for my community.”
“We have many great resources available to help those in need, but there are still a number of people who slip through the cracks, so we found the Community Fridge project to be a great opportunity to do our part in reducing that gap especially as it relates to food insecurity,” she said.
The success of a Community Fridge will hinge on the generosity of local community members. Right now, the group anticipates two to three fridges in the region over the next few months. They hope to see the fridge initiative become a common element in our area, used by any and all people.
“Community Fridges are very popular in Europe, but they are a relatively new concept in Canada,” says Zolfiqar. “I definitely think what makes this initiative a success is the support and response from the community. We would not have been able to launch this initiative without the help of local businesses, organizations and individuals who have offered to volunteer their time, space or resources to our cause.”
“We are looking for fresh produce, such as fruits and vegetables, non-perishable items, and shelf-stable foods,” said Pharaon. “To ensure the safety of individuals accessing the community fridge, we are unable to accept home-cooked meals or items with open packaging.”
The group is currently securing donations and host locations and say they are very close to launching the project. Zolfiqar says they are seeking mask donations as well as possible partnerships with cafes, restaurants, grocery stores and local farms who may have unused food that would otherwise go to waste. They hope to have their first fridge, located at Zero Waste Bulk, up and running in early September.