Danielle Froh, center, sorts out food donations for the Regina Community Fridge in Regina on Wednesday March 17, 2021. The community organization, of which Froh is a volunteer, exists to provide fresh food to anyone at anytime. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Michael Bell

Danielle Froh, center, sorts out food donations for the Regina Community Fridge in Regina on Wednesday March 17, 2021. The community organization, of which Froh is a volunteer, exists to provide fresh food to anyone at anytime. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Michael Bell

Take what you need; leave what you can: Community fridges pop up during pandemic

The concept behind it is simple, she says: Take what you need; leave what you can

On a sunny afternoon, there’s a steady flow of people coming and going from behind a pharmacy in Regina’s north-central neighbourhood.

Tucked in behind the building is a small shed, its doors open to a fridge, freezer and pantry.

There are containers of pasta salad, sandwiches, wraps and cans of food.

Not much is said and some people look to see what’s there. Others have brought bags with them to restock their empty kitchen shelves.

It’s a cycle that repeats itself throughout the day at the fridge that belongs to no one and everyone.

“I dream of free fridges just being a normal thing in the city,” says Danielle Froh, an emergency room nurse and one of the organizers behind Regina Community Fridge.

The concept behind it is simple, she says: Take what you need; leave what you can.

It’s a place where people can go when they need food, which is supplied through donations, she says.

“I know there’s a lot of hungry people in Regina. COVID-19 has only made this worse.”

Across Canada, the pandemic and public-health orders brought in to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus have led to increased unemployment.

Statistics Canada says low-wage workers have been hit hardest by lockdown measures, and unemployment rates have been higher for Indigenous people and visible minorities.

Community fridges exist elsewhere in the world, but it’s the pandemic that appears to have spurred a free fridge movement in Canada. Those involved say they believe the fridges are here to stay.

Froh says she was inspired last summer after a community fridge opened in Calgary. An organizer there says it was based on similar fridges in cities including Toronto and New York.

“We were all just seeing a lot of people really hit hard by COVID with losing their jobs,” says Sierra Leedham with Community Fridges Toronto.

That city now has at least seven free fridges, which are stocked by some larger donation sources but often by regular people who want to give food to their neighbours, says Leedham.

Besides offering staples — produce, deli meats and eggs — there are culturally appropriate foods to fit the neighbourhoods where the fridges are located, she adds. There’s also personal protective equipment.

Leedham, like those involved with similar initiatives, say volunteers make sure there’s no expired food and the sites are clean. But there’s no policing of who can take food or how much is taken.

“You don’t know why someone might need more food than another person.”

Alice Lam, a co-organizer with Calgary Community Fridge, it wasn’t clear at first who would use the fridge when it opened last August.

It turns out single parents make up about half of those who do — diapers are among the items stocked, Lam says. Other users include seniors living on low incomes, as well as people taking food for relatives or those with disabilities.

Lam says it was initially thought the fridge would stay full for at least a day, but it’s being emptied and restocked up to seven times a day. Fruit, granola bars and bread disappear so quickly that many people leave without anything.

“If you stock it at 1 p.m., it’s empty at 1:30 p.m.”

Froh knows what that’s like in Regina.

She says it seems like the fridge is always empty, even though about $6,000 worth of groceries move through it each week. It speaks to the need in the community, she adds.

One woman from the nearby Peepeekisis First Nation, stopping in the city for her husband’s medical needs, says the fridge has been a big help.

“It’s been helping us survive everyday as it goes by,” said the woman, who didn’t want to be identified.

“Grateful it exists in the community. Without this place I don’t know what we’d do.”

Froh says at least two other fridges are planning to open in Regina. Organizers in Vancouver recently announced the opening of two of three planned fridges there.

The pandemic has brought about a new way of thinking about how people can help feed one another, she says.

“We don’t have to pick and choose who gets what with food. We don’t have to have anyone registered to get free food. We could just give free food to our neighbours, and here’s a way to do it.”

Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The old Stanley Gordon school in Lake Cowichan. (Lexi Bainas/Gazette file)
Editorial: Old school properties represent potential for our areas

There are opportunities, often sitting right in the middle of our small communities.

Sweet gum trees like this one in City Square will be replaced over the next three years. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Duncan plans big tree replacement project for downtown

Sweet gums in City Square and along Station Street will go over the next three years

Cowichan Valley Capitals defenceman Logan Rands pokes the puck away from Alberni Valley Bulldogs forward Talon Duff. (Elena Rardon/Black Press Media)
Offence sags as Cowichan Capitals reach midway mark

Caps score one goal in three games as pod season continues

BCYP Minister for the Southern Interior, Aislinn Dressler of Fernie said the Youth Parliament being virtual was a great way to learn about how the BC Parliament was operating. (Photo contributed by Aislinn Dressler)
Applications open for Islands Youth Parliament

Applications must be received by April 23

A large crowd protested against COVID-19 measures at Sunset Beach in Vancouver on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. (Snapchat)
VIDEO: Large, police-patrolled crowds gather at Vancouver beach for COVID protests

Vancouver police said they patrolled the area and monitored all gatherings

A teacher-librarian in Nanaimo was fired in 2019 for checking out an age-inappropriate graphic novel to a student. The discipline agreement was published Wednesday, April 21. (News Bulletin file photo)
Nanaimo teacher-librarian fired for checking out too-graphic graphic novel to student

Teacher had been previously disciplined and suspended on two occasions

Aria Pendak Jefferson cuddles ChiChi, the family cat that ran away two years ago in Ucluelet. The feline was missing until Courtney Johnson and Barry Edge discovered her in the parking lot of the Canadian Princess earlier this month. Aria and her parents were reunited with ChiChi in a parking lot in Port Alberni. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
An Island girl’s wish is answered as her cat came back

Courtenay family reunited with cat that went missing in Ucluelet in 2019

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Vancouver Island Connector and Tofino Bus is putting a 41-passenger electric bus through its paces in a three-month trial run between Nanaimo and Victoria. (Photo submitted)
Electric bus on trial run serving Victoria-to-Nanaimo route

Vancouver Island Connector and Tofino Bus trying out 41-seat electric coach for three months

The Coastal Fire Centre is looking ahead to the wildfire season on Vancouver Island. (Phil McLachlan – Western News)
Coastal Fire Centre looking ahead at wildfire season on Vancouver Island

‘We’re asking people in the spring to be very careful’

Chum Salmon fry being examined with multiple motile and attached sea lice on Vargas Island. (Cedar Coast Field Station photo)
Study: Tofino fish farm sea lice infestations add fuel to push to remove open pens

Ahousaht First Nation asking for higher standards than what DFO requires

FILE – The Instagram app is shown on an iPhone in Toronto on Monday, March 19, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
Judge acquits B.C. teen boy ‘set up’ on sex assault charge based on Instagram messages

The girl and her friends did not have ‘good intentions’ towards the accused, judge says

Kai Palkeinen recently helped a car stuck on the riverbed near the Big Eddy Bridge. While the car could not be saved, some of the driver’s belongings were. It’s common for vehicles to get stuck in the area due to significantly changing river levels from Revelstoke Dam. (Photo by Kai Palkeinen)
“I just sank a car’: Revelstoke resident tries to save vehicle from the Columbia River

Although it’s not permitted, the riverbed near the city is popular for off roading

Most Read