Community fridges and larders in Lib Dem Eastbourne

A briefing on food waste and food poverty from Lib Dem Eastbourne

Community fridges and/or larders help to reduce two problems: food waste and food poverty.

The basic concept is that food that might otherwise go to waste is given away, in particular, to those that need it most. There are several models for this, but it can be as simple as identifying a place for a fridge and/or store cupboard which can be accessed by members of the public, either supervised or unsupervised. In some areas, a covered fridge or food storage area is left outside a community building and people can put food in or take from it whenever they want. This is potentially the most risky scenario as donated food is not monitored.

At Langney Larder in Eastbourne, we have a small room dedicated to the larder in a local community centre and open for two hours every week. There are now two other community fridges in the town which only have a table and fridge within their venues, it doesn’t need a dedicated room. We ask visitors to the larder to become members (which is free) and we take minimal information, just enough so that we can monitor how many individuals and children we are supporting. Every time a member visits they pay £2 for up to 10 items of food. There is no criteria for becoming a member, everyone is welcome and, importantly, we emphasise the project as reducing food waste rather than food poverty.

One of the issues we have found is that many people who need Foodbank  are too ashamed to use it. Because our emphasis is on reducing food waste and people are paying for their food, albeit not very much, we’ve found that we can offer support for people suffering from food poverty without the shame attached to Foodbank visits. We work closely with Foodbank and set up a weekly session for them at our centre in addition to the larder. We get to know our members and have been able to successfully move many of them onto the Foodbank service too. We consider ourselves to be a top up service because the food we have is very varied whilst Foodbank can maintain a supply of store cupboard items and provide a whole three days worth of food.

Our food comes predominantly from Fareshare Sussex, but Fareshare operate from many parts of the UK. With Fareshare, we pay roughly £2,300 pa for a weekly bulk delivery of food. We only know what we’re getting two days before the delivery and the food can vary from tins to boxes of chocolates. The Fareshare delivery makes up the majority of the food we redistribute, but we have also signed up to Neighbourly which works with many supermarkets to make it easy for them to give away their surplus stock. We also accept donations from members of the public.

We also apply for grant funding for feminine hygiene products and this is an important part of our offer, as period poverty is also a problem.

Community fridges

Food sources

It’s also worth contacting shops and supermarkets directly as well as restaurants and market traders. Definitely form a link with your local Foodbank, sometimes they have excess to share of certain items too. In addition our project has its own allotment so we grow some of our own food!

Helen Burton BEM

Eastbourne Borough Councillor

CEO Volunteers Network

Email: [email protected]