Over five years, Hubbub’s Community Fridge work has grown from one small pilot to 150 sites of food sharing, inspiring both HRH the Prince of Wales and Marcus Rashford MBE. Now, a partnership with Co-op is set to near double the impact, raising our network from 150 to 250 unique food sharing sites.

A Community Fridge is a place where everyone can share surplus food, including donations from local food businesses, producers, households and gardens. They are typically volunteer-led and found in myriad of community spaces, from community centres and churches to car parks.

Anyone and everyone can visit; there are no questions asked or means testing at the fridge. All that visitors need is a desire to make a dent in the 10 million tonnes of food wasted on average in the UK per year.

Our first Community Fridge launched in 2016 in Swadlincote, Derbyshire. The aim was to tackle hyper-local food waste generated ‘little and often’ from businesses and households. The pilot achieved this goal and more.

The fridge cut waste and brought people together around good food, forging friendships and providing stimulus for community meals. The site also shared information on how to save food and money at the household level. This waste amounts to £730 per year for an average family of four.

In 2017, in response to increasing demand, we set up the Community Fridge Network (CFN). Backed by the National Lottery Community Fund with guidance from the Food Standards Agency, we provide free support and a peer network to any group wishing to establish. This includes a resource pack covering everything needed to run safe, inclusive, and impactful spaces alongside chat forums and regular meetups.

Since founding, the CFN has supported community groups from the Isle of Mull to Truro, with our 2020 100th fridge milestone marked by Prince Charles opening a fridge outside the public café at his Ayrshire Estate, Dumfries House.

Now, in 2021, the 150 strong Community Fridge Network redistributes 3,145 tonnes annually, the equivalent of 7,489,762 meals. But the impact of the Community Fridges stretches well beyond food saving. They are not just fridges, they are hubs of the community, providing visitors with an opportunity to try new foods, share recipes, meet others, and even cook together. Nearly half of the network support activities to learn more about sustainable eating and budgeting, as well as initiatives such as cooking and growing workshops, share-shops, or food co-operatives.

Community Fridge groups report reductions in social isolation locally and that fridges provide fresh fruit and veg to those who may be struggling to prioritise it.

One Fridge Coordinator said: “People tell us that good quality free food has made a huge difference at this time. From feeding families, improving mental health, encouraging people to try new food, to improving diets.”

In the wake of Covid-19, these spaces of learning and community support are more important than ever. Their ability to support resilience at a household and community level was recognised by Marcus Rashford as he commended the CFN’s partnership with the Co-op Group, calling out its ability to support local communities to access food and skills.

Today, our efforts are two-fold. We’re helping existing fridges to develop into dynamic ‘food hubs’, via information sharing and small grants. We also want to ensure that Community Fridges reach areas of the UK where their impact can have greatest effect. And that’s where you come in. You can get involved at the local level or help us to spread the word about forthcoming funding.

UK based organisations able to establish a Community Fridge within the next six months can apply for funding and support via our website from 7th July -16th August. Alongside £4,000 funding, successful groups will receive dedicated project set-up support, guidance and information, plus access to our CFN forum.

You can also share food or volunteer at your local fridge which can be found via the network map. Doors are always open to new volunteers to help with everything from food collection to impact development.

So, join the movement, spread the word and help thousands more connect to their neighbours, access nutritious food, save money, and reduce waste.