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Community Fridge Network Could Provide Key to Curbing UK Food Waste

Image Credit: Hubbub

After recently making headlines for its pioneering ‘Smart Fresh’ label, which allows consumers to closely monitor the freshness and edibility of their products, UK grocery giant Sainsbury’s is back in the news with the announcement of a new initiative in partnership with sustainability charity Hubbub and Bosch to slash food waste.

Each year in the UK, £13 billion of food is thrown away, with a further £3 billion wasted by the hospitality and food service sector. While awareness around the issue is on the rise, options for redistributing surplus, perishable food to those who need it have been limited.

The Community Fridge Network seeks to disrupt this cycle, by providing communities with an easy and accessible way to curb food waste, while simultaneously addressing issues of food insecurity. The program will see refrigerators fully stocked with surplus food from local businesses and households placed throughout local communities. The fridges will be open to everyone in the community to access.

The concept has already been trialed in Spain and Germany, where it was met with considerable success. The trials formed the basis of a pilot in Swadlincote, Derbyshire last year, which was funded by Sainsbury’s as part of its Waste Less, Save More program to help consumers save money by throwing away less food. The pilot used a fridge and freezer supplied by Bosch.

“Following on from the huge success of the Swadlincote pilot — which saw over 9,000 items of food redistributed in just seven months — we are delighted to support The Community Fridge Network,” said Paul Crewe, Head of Sustainability, Engineering & Energy at Sainsbury’s.

“This innovative trial has shown us that one small town can save over 500kg of food every month so this is a fantastic opportunity for even more people to reduce their food waste and save money. As a business, we are committed to helping our customers reduce their food waste via our Waste Less, Save More campaign, while at the same time we are always looking for ways for us to reduce our own food surplus. Up until now, we’ve been providing over 1,000 local charities up and down the UK with surplus food that doesn’t need refrigeration — so this now gives us the opportunity to provide chilled surplus food to those that need it most.”

The program will kick off this month with the opening of five new Community Fridges in Milton Keynes, three locations in North London (Manor House, Leytonstone and Old Street) and Northern Ireland, with more locations to roll out across the UK over the next year. Existing independent Community Fridges, including the Swadlincote fridge and others in Camberwell, Frome and Brixton are also joining the network to add their combined efforts to the food waste fight.

Already, the response has been overwhelmingly positive. Hubbub revealed that since the Sainsbury’s Swadlincote pilot, it has been inundated with inquiries from people wanting to set up a Community Fridge. The Network will provide organizers, who are commonly faced by challenges around the legal requirements and food hygiene, with free advice and support and act as a hub to enable disparate communities to share their experiences and learn from each other.

“Communities have long demonstrated an incredible ability to pull together to make positive things happen and I’m delighted that there is growing support for this movement to tackle food waste at a community level,” said Trewin Restorick, CEO and Co-Founder of Hubbub. “It’s great to see healthy perishable food going to those who need it most and we would love to hear from other communities who might be interested in joining us.”

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