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

Susan Martin and Peter Gook from Salmon Arm are the honorees in Vernon for the Alzheimer Society of B.C.’s largest fundraiser, the IG Wealth Management Walk for Alzheimer’s. People are encouraged to register, fundraise and walk throughout May 2021 to support the programs and services of the society. (Contributed)
Salmon Arm couple honoured in this year’s walk for Alzheimer’s

People are asked to participate to raise funds for the Alzheimer Society of B.C.

Members of the city’s environmental advisory committee and some city councillors would like to receive and provide input into an application for a groundwater licence in Salmon Arm for the purpose of bottling fresh water. (Lachlan Labere - Salmon Arm Observer)
Concerns raised over water licence application in Salmon Arm for bottling water

Neighbours want to know more, city councillor concerned about commercial use of public aquifers

Photo: pixabay.com
Morning Start: What does space smell like?

Your morning start for Wednesday, April 21, 2021

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson outlines the province’s three-year budget in Victoria, April 20, 2021. (B.C. government video)
B.C. deficit to grow by $19 billion for COVID-19 recovery spending

Pandemic-year deficit $5 billion lower than forecast

A syringe is loaded with COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
67 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

Thirty people in the region are hospitalized with the virus, 11 of whom are intensive care

A lone traveler enters the Calgary Airport in Calgary, Alta., Monday, Feb. 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
VIDEO: Trudeau defends Canada’s travel restrictions as effective but open to doing more

Trudeau said quarantine hotels for international air travellers will continue until at least May 21

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

Sheldon Pierre Louis’s winning mural design, “kʷu mr̓imstn, we are medicine.” (Facebook: Okanagan Nation Alliance)
Syilx artist selected as winner of Kelowna Gospel Mission’s mural project

Sheldon Pierre Louis was also awarded $10,000 for his winning submission, “kʷu mr̓imstn, we are medicine.”

In this image from video, former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin, center, is taken into custody as his attorney, Eric Nelson, left, looks on, after the verdicts were read at Chauvin’s trial for the 2020 death of George Floyd, Tuesday, April 20, 2021, at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis, Minn. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Court TV via AP, Pool
George Floyd’s death was ‘wake-up call’ about systemic racism: Trudeau

Derek Chauvin was found guilty Tuesday on all three charges against him

Former University of Victoria rowing coach Barney Williams is photographed in the stands during the Greater Victoria Invitational at CARSA Performance Gym at the University of Victoria in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, November 29, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Rowing Canada sanctions former head coach of B.C. varsity women’s team

Suspension of Barney Williams would be reversed if he complies with certain terms

A man pauses at a coffin after carrying it during a memorial march to remember victims of overdose deaths in Vancouver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. announces historic half-billion-dollar funding for overdose crisis, mental health

Of it, $152 million will be used to address the opioid crisis and see the creation of 195 new substance use treatment beds

Children’s backpacks and shoes are seen at a CEFA (Core Education and Fine Arts) Early Learning daycare franchise, in Langley, B.C., on Tuesday May 29, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. budget to expand $10-a-day child care, but misses the mark on ‘truly universal’ system

$111 million will be used to fund 3,750 new $10-a-day spaces though 75 additional ChildCareBC universal prototype sites over the next three years.

Most Read