Portrait of a Community Fridge manager

Carly Andersen tells us how helping to prevent food waste has brought her local community together

Carly, a nutritionist, has been working with communities in London for five years, three of them in the Waterloo area. Environmental organisation Hubbub gave the initial grant to start up a Community Fridge, with Co-op now providing food and further funding. 

During the pandemic a lot of local shops were closing, and it tended to be only the more expensive ones left. A resident told me about Community Fridges being a great means of sharing food without the costs, and in a way that benefits both the community and the planet. 

We now have a fantastic Fridge that’s a focal point of our community centre. With people coming to visit our library, or to take part in other community activities we offer, the Fridge attracts their attention. We get donations from residents who have spare food that they don’t want to throw away, as well as from local businesses.

After we received funding from Co-op, things really changed. We were put in touch with a Co-op store just down the road, and we often share their surplus food with the community. Over the four months since the Fridge opened, we’ve saved around 350kg of food from being wasted, giving it to about 170 visitors. Although everything is close to its use-by date and needs to be consumed within a day or two, that suits us — our aim is to have people taking and donating food little and often, to save it from being thrown away. Most people take a few items, and this exchanging of unwanted food helps to give a community feel.

Because we’re working to reduce food waste and are open to all – there’s no means testing – it takes away the stigma that people sometimes feel. Instead, we have strangers meeting who are happy to chat and discuss food. It’s also now much easier for residents to access tasty, affordable food in this area of London. Waterloo is one of the busiest parts of a huge city, but now we have our own community. 

Become a Co-op Member and help support your local Community Fridge or a host of other causes. Find out more at coop.co.uk/membership and watch Carly and the Community Fridge volunteers below.