A community ‘freedge’ is a place where members of a neighborhood can share food and ideas. The Freedge is a community refrigerator hosted by a resident or groups of residents and placed in a public space. Anyone can take or leave any food item in it, subject to local health and safety regulations. Each Freedge is unique, but all share the common goal of reducing food waste and redistributing food.
Recently, news of similar projects happening in other countries, such as India and Spain, has raised interest and awareness about community freedges. However, there is currently no global online community to guide and coordinate these efforts. We want to expand the community refrigerator movement and create an online network, or ‘wiki’ [freedge.org/wiki]. In the future we also want to create an app that connects freedges, hosts and users.
Our ultimate goal is not to install a few isolated community fridges, but to encourage local actors around the world to install community fridges in their neighborhoods and start their own local networks, joining the global freedge network.
In order to test the efficacy of our idea, we have established a few community pilot projects over the last two years. The first freedge was installed in Davis, California in October 2014. During the test phase, 122 food items were exchanged over 29 days of operation, an average of about 4 items per day. In December, we added a space dedicated to book-exchange to further enhance community interaction. In September 2015, we changed the regulations to require that only fresh produce be exchanged in the Freedge. We have developed relationships with several local farmers at the Davis Farmers’ Market who contribute their excess produce to the freedge. In March 2016 we installed another freedge in Washington – DC [https://www.washingtonian.com/2016/05/03/dc-community-refrigerator-freedge-petworth-eric-yen/]
In August 2016, a third freedge was launched by Rebecca Gregori in Fort Collins – CO, at the FoCo Café [http://fococafe.org/the-foco-freedge/] . This is the first independent freedge to join the freedge network.
We have established two more freedges overseas, in Brazil and Colombia. We have a few more planned in California (Davis, Sacramento, Oakland, Merced), France (Paris), Romania (Cluj) and Brazil (Bauru, Maringá and São Paulo)
Legal: Most food codes are made for retail activities are therefore are not adapted to food sharing. There are many layers of legislation and it’s hard to navigate them. The Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act is our ally, but how can we apply it to our case?
Monitoring / Food Safety: We are all concerned about the quality of the food found in the freedge. While achieving 100% safety is impossible, we want to increase food safety as much as we can. What are cheapest ways of doing it? Which technologies can we use? [Cameras? Sensors?]
Revenues: Even being a non-profit, the freedge needs money to cover costs such as electricity and maintenance. Expanding the movement also require funds. How can we generate a sustainable stream of revenues? [Ads? partnerships?]
Do want to be part of freedge? Here are basic steps to getting a freedge in your neighborhood:
- Involve the neighbors in the process and find a host for the freedge. Choosing the right location is not always easy.
- Be aware of legal requirements regarding food sharing in your city or county, and post the rules clearly and visibly on the freedge.
- Locate a used commercial fridge with glass doors (for maximum visibility)
- Make the freedge beautiful and attractive to the neighborhood. Invite artists and neighbors to participate in the freedge painting and transform it in an evolving art installation. Install a community board on the freedge, a place where neighbors can communicate and express themselves.
- Find a good name for your freedge!
- Spread the word and put yourself in the freedge map.
- Make partnerships with farmers markets, restaurants, grocery stores and other businesses and organizations that might help stock the freedge.
- Keep the freedge clean and safe. Freedge hosts perform regular safety checks on the fridge and regular cleanings. Each freedge should have a message board with the contact information of the host, so that freedge users can notify hosts of undesired items.
Get in touch with us and help us establish the freedge Network: firstname.lastname@example.org
Or visit our website: freedge.org