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The People Cold Chain

Bringing together neighborhoods to mantain the "Cold Chain" and allow grocery stores to donate refrigerated goods to those in need.

Photo of Catalina De la Rocha
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The reality is heartbreaking. It's 12 a.m. and a big supermarket store is throwing away tenths of drinkable yougurts because the expiration date marks the next they as the last one for consumption. If you drive for 10 minutes, you'll encounter a neighborhood of families who can only afford to buy a bottle of milk per week as a luxury. 

This situation is repeated with different refrigerated products due to a well-intended norm to prevent and control illness and lawsuits.  

The problem appears when the food that's been thrown away is still edible and could represent a big healthy meal for a kid. 

The proposal is to use a low cost / insulated cooler that doesn't break the Cold Chain from the store's fridge to the table. Something you can store at the back of your car or carry on the bus. This way, the neighborhood can asign volunteers to deliver the soon to be expired food to a community center where it will be consumed within the next hour. 

The challenge is to make is compliant with the store's policies to protect both the store, the delivery person and the final benificiary.

What early, lightweight experiment might you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

Gather some volunteers and map their daily commute routines ( be sure to add a time table). Mark potencial grocery stores and communities in need within 15 minutes to identify a delivery route that can be included in their daily routines.

Use a styrofoam cooler and thermometer to understand how temperature changes in a short journey from a local store to the community.

Talk to the potencial grocery stores about the idea and build upon their requirements and procedures.

What skills, input or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

Understanding different norms across cities that regulate cold chains to be able to approach the big grocecy stores.

Any success stories about "human chains" to solve broken systems.

Tell us about your work experience:

I'm an Industrial and Inclusive Designer from Aguascalientes Mexico.

This idea emerged from

  • A group brainstorm
  • An OpenIDEO Outpost or Chapter

How far along is your idea?

  • It’s just been created! It’s existed for 1 day - 1 month


Join the conversation:

Photo of Cristina

I love your idea, it think it solves  two problems at a time which is great and it also involves people so we can all come together to help others. I would just ask, which strategy are you going to use to get all the coolers and volunteers? 

Thanks for sharing! 

Photo of Catalina De la Rocha

Hi! I'm thinking of linking the activity to a group within a university or an asociation who already have the people and the will and then ask each of them to bring a cooler to test the idea. I already identified a community dinner where they could receive the refrigerated goods so perhaps we can start over there. Can you think of anything else? Thanks for your comment!

Photo of cato

Great idea, food waste is an everyday issue and everyone can make good use of it, specially the people of low income 

Photo of Catalina De la Rocha

Thanks cato let me know if you think of a good way to make sure the food gets to everyone's tables!

Photo of Jacob Schual-Berke

Thanks for the contribution Catalina! I'm wondering if we are talking about getting perishable food from grocery store to food bank (just point A to point B), would a human cold chain make more sense than a refrigerated truck? I did a quick search and found here ( that they have a refrigerated truck. But I really like the idea of a human cold chain and would be curious to know in which situations it does make sense (like when you are distributing from point A to many smaller places).

Photo of Catalina De la Rocha

Hi Jacob Schual-Berke !

The idea came up from a brainstorming session where someone mentioned "What would happen if all of us just grab our cars to get the soon-to-expire food to someone else's table? "  We liked the idea of involving the community to do the job and reduce the cost of using a refrigerated truck.  I would be interesed to talk to someone at the Mobile Food Pantry to see how they manage to deliver everything. 

I guess one of our main questions is:  How can our solution comply with the regulations that are pushing grocery stores to throw away all that food in cities with poor infrastructure?

Photo of Kate Rushton

Hi Catalina! Thank you for your idea. 

Do you plan to use solidarity fridges at the community centres or deliver from the store to the community centre/person's house at a set time? 

Solidarity fridges are mentioned here -

You might be able to get some insight from these posts in the research phase:

I can't wait to see how this idea develops. 

Photo of Catalina De la Rocha

Kate Rushton ! Thanks for your comment. The Solidarity Fridges seem like an interesting concept to explore in Mexico. One of the key insights we got from our interview with a community center organizer was that most of these centers and families, can't afford to have a fridge. The idea of involving the community to  "adopt a fridge " for them is worth trying.