CALGARY — They’ve popped up in other cities including Toronto, New York City and Los Angeles. Now a group of friends has brought the idea of a community fridge to Calgary, offering those in need access to free, fresh and healthy food whenever they need it.
“I think we’re all ready to care about each other on a higher level than we were before,” said Megan Kirk, one of the co-founders of the pilot project.
The first community fridge, located at 902 Centre Street N, is stocked and open.
“Fresh produce and things with expiry dates,” explained Kirk. “No meat right now just because it’s easier to manage.
“We’re going to have lots of dry pantry items, hopefully diapers, tampons, that kind of thing.”
Those behind the initiative describe it as a mutual aid project aimed at addressing food inequity in Calgary.
“I’m always a huge fan of citizen participation and getting out and meeting and helping your neighbours,” said co-founder Alice Lam. “During the pandemic we’ve seen the gap between the ability for people to stretch their income just become very large.”
Lam says the initiative is neighbour-to-neighbour and hopes recipients will be able to give back one day.
“There’s an abundance of community gardens with lots of fresh produce. There’s lots of people farming, lots of people wanting to give back and so this just seemed like a good way to match those resources.”
Organizers hope people who don’t want to access traditional aid will feel comfortable taking from the fridge.
“Maybe there’s just a gap and we can fill it here,” said co-founder Sasha Lavoie. “Maybe people can come and contribute when normally they couldn’t contribute. Maybe they need to grab something anonymously in the middle of the night and they don’t want to register. Maybe they can’t register because they don’t qualify.”
The location was chosen as it’s near where the organizers live or have connections, so it can be maintained, the initiative can partner with members of the community and inspire others.
“Hopefully it helps us set up other communities,” said Kirk. “We want people to do it in their own backyard but if we can help them in terms of design or supplies or support that’s what we want to do.”
Organizers say they’ve been working with Alberta Health Services to implement proper safety protocols.
A crowd funding campaign for the initiative has already tripled its initial goal of $5,000. Donations will help with costs including maintenance, food, cleaning supplies and shed building materials for the winter.
“What we just want to do is prove that it can work in Calgary,” said Lam. “It’s a resilient city with a huge volunteer base, super compassionate, super generous so we do think if it can happen anywhere Calgary is the place where it can really takeoff.”
Updates on h the project will be posted on the Calgary Community Fridge Instagram account.