Morrisons offers boost to 'honesty' fridge network

Supermarket’s £45,000 funding will double number of fridges distributing food to communities

A fledgling UK network of community or “honesty” fridges, which offer free food to those with limited means, is set to double in size in six months, thanks to funding from a major supermarket.

The Community Fridge Network, run by environmental charity Hubbub, is to receive £45,000 from Morrisons, it will be announced this week, allowing it to increase the total of 31 fridges to 58 by November.

A community fridge is stocked with surplus food – typically close to its sell-by date – donated by local retailers, restaurants and households and its contents are free to local residents. Regular users may be reliant on food banks, while recent additions include fridges for university students.

Food waste is a huge issue in the UK, with £13bn of edible food thrown away from homes every year (according to the government’s waste advisory body, Wrap) and a further £3bn wasted by the hospitality and food service sector.

On average each local fridge redistributes 525kg a month, meaning that more than 30 tonnes of food per month will be saved from waste by November.

A girl examines a community fridge
A girl inspects a community fridge. Photograph: Lucy Young

Morrisons stores have already been regularly donating edible surplus food to community fridges in Sheffield, Frome in Somerset and Shildon in County Durham, and will aim to set up partnerships with five new stores.

“Every area should have a community fridge” said Trewin Restorick, chief executive of Hubbub. “It’s a wonderfully simple way to stop fresh food from going to waste and it’s fantastic to see organisations like Morrisons supporting the network. With more investment and support from big businesses, we can make sure so much more fresh food is enjoyed and not destroyed.”

Andrew Woffindin, coordinator of the community fridge at the University of Sheffield said: “The partnership provides the opportunity for students and people in our local community who have a limited budget to make fresh meals with food that would otherwise have gone to waste.”

The scheme was launched in July 2017 with start-up funding from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, North London Waste Authority, The Funding Network and Sainsbury’s. Fridges and freezers are donated by Bosch. The network received a significant boost in December 2017 thanks to £160,000 of National Lottery funding.

Community fridges were found to be one of the most effective and low-cost tools to use edible food in a year-long, £10m trial by Sainsbury’s in the South Derbyshire town of Swadlincote. Despite the trial’s success, the Guardian revealed last week that the supermarket has dropped the programme after customers said their priorities had changed.

Among other retailers donating food to the fridge network are Tesco (via charity FareShare), Waitrose, the Co-op, Marks & Spencer, Nando’s, Lidl and Spar.


Rebecca Smithers Consumer affairs correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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