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Solidarity fridge

A shared communal fridge to cut down food waste. An experiment that started in Galdakao, a small city on the outskirts of Bilbao.

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard
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"The Solidarity Fridge is a project to fight against food waste. 40% of the food products in the world don’t even get sold, whether it is due to less than perfect looks, not being part of the latest food trends, or being too close to the sell by date, the fact is that they just end up in the garbage." (excerpt from the Solidarity Fridge website).

It all started in  Galdakao, Spain: "Galdakao, population 29,000, has been home to Spain’s first “solidarity fridge”, in which residents and restaurants can drop off leftover or unused food otherwise destined for the bin. Anything left in the fridge can be picked up by anyone who wants it. “I would guess we’ve saved between 200 and 300kg from the rubbish bin,” said organiser Álvaro Saiz. A typical day might see leftover lentils, a few sandwiches and unopened milk cartons left in the fridge.

The idea came about as Saiz and other members of the city’s volunteer association were reflecting on the sheer amount of food being thrown out by supermarkets. “We started to think that if even just one of their rubbish bins was replaced with a fridge, people could take advantage of these items.” After an online search revealed a network of shared fridges in Berlin, he said. “We realised we could do this – so we did.” (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jun/25/solidarity-fridge-spanish-town-cut-food-waste-galdakao)

While inspired by the Berlin model, Saiz wanted to do a version more low-tech so that his elderly neighbors, who are not on the Internet, could access it. He pitched the idea to the Mayor who loved the idea and the city approved a small budget of 5,000 euros to pay for the fridge and an initial health safety study, as well as electricity and upkeep. Interestingly, from the start legal issues were taken into account: the fridge was granted a special independent legal status - so that the city can't be sued if someone gets sick.

There are a few rules:

"No raw meat, fish or eggs. Homemade food must be labeled with the date, and thrown out after four days. Members of Galdakao's volunteer association take turns cleaning out the fridge.

But otherwise, it operates largely on the honor system, and so far there's been no abuse. In fact, food rarely ends up staying a whole day - much less four." (http://www.dw.com/en/in-spain-a-shared-refrigerator-and-a-crusade-against-food-waste/a-18677642).

Local restaurants actively participate. "The fridge has also allowed local restaurants to alleviate guilt over their food wastage, said Álvaro Llonin of Topa restaurant. “Before we used to throw away a lot of food – and it was food that was fine to eat.” (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jun/25/solidarity-fridge-spanish-town-cut-food-waste-galdakao). Individual households are also participating. 

An interesting aspect, and "the beauty of the project, organizers say, is that no one knows how many people use it. Shame of poverty forces some people to visit the fridge at night, under the cover of darkness." (http://www.dw.com/en/in-spain-a-shared-refrigerator-and-a-crusade-against-food-waste/a-18677642)

The project has grown into creating a network of fridges and cities. There are now 9 participating cities in Spain. 

Key learnings:

- Reducing food waste while addressing hunger

- A simple, minimal technology + a group of volunteers + a few rules and a honor system with the support of the city.

- A communal system where restaurants, households and the city collaborate to successfully address food waste

- Respect of the individuals: You can go and get food without the shame of foraging in the bins, or even of being seen visiting the fridge.

What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

How might we create opportunities to reduce food waste and feed the hungry while building on a sense of community? How might we use simple technologies and communal spaces to change behaviors and nurture solidarity? How might we expand the solidarity fridge network outside of Spain?

Tell us about your work experience:

Faculty at NYU, teaching, researching and practicing human-centered design. Faculty advisor to DFA NYU.

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Photo of Ernst Bertone Oehninger

Hi Anne-Laure Fayard and Kate Rushton  

I'm very glad to see you post and your comments here!

We are working with community fridges since 2014. We installed a first one here in Davis-CA and a second one in Washington-DC in the beginning of this year (https://www.washingtonian.com/2016/05/03/dc-community-refrigerator-freedge-petworth-eric-yen/). A third freedge was launched by our friend Rebecca Gregori in Fort Collins – CO in August of this year.  We also installed two freedges overseas, in Colombia and Brazil.

Here in Davis we had some problems with the Health Authorities regarding permits but since last year we are allowed to share fruits and vegetables under the gleaner law.

http://www.sacbee.com/news/local/health-and-medicine/article8425098.html

But despite this achievement we still can't share other kinds of food such as leftovers or non-perishables, and many landlords are afraid of being sued if someone feels sick after eating food from the freedge (Despite the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act). So the fight goes on.

Our ultimate goal is not to install a few isolated community fridges, but to provide funding and guidance to encourage local actors around the world to install community fridges in their neighborhoods and start their own local networks, joining the freedge network.

To install our fridges we mainly used money from crowdfunding and small grants. Our freedge here costs about $10 per month on electricity. We would like to provide some financial help to hosts in order to reward them for their work on cleaning and monitoring the fridges, but right now everything is volunteer based.

Please have a look in our idea here: https://challenges.openideo.com/challenge/food-waste/ideas/freedge-community-fridges

We would love to have your insight and comments. Also would you like to join the freedge team? We would be very honored !

Looking forward to hearing from you,

Ernst

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard

Thanks Ernst for sharing your experience and idea. I'll post some comments and responses directly on your idea.
al

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