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

From the left: Beth Plotnikoff, Madeline Williams, Shannon Frederick and Sheryl McIver pose for a photo outside their Market Avenue t-shirt stand Saturday, April 17. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Grand Forks businesses raise money for Phoenix snow cat

T-shirt proceeds to go toward a used snow groomer for the mountain

A class is in isolation after a potential exposure at J.V. Humphries School in Kaslo. Photo: School District 8
Kaslo school’s class isolated due to possible COVID-19 exposure

A class at J.V. Humphries School is home for the week

Elvira D’Angelo, 92, waits to receive her COVID-19 vaccination shot at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, March 7, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
110 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

Provincial health officers announced 1,005 new cases throughout B.C.

Tala MacDonald, a 17-year-old student at Mount Sentinel Secondary who is also a volunteer firefighter, has won the $100,000 Loran Scholarship. Photo: Submitted
West Kootenay student wins $100K scholarship

Tala MacDonald is one of 30 Canadians to receive the Loran Scholarship

Kristian Camero and Jessica Wood, seen here, co-own The Black Cauldron with Stephen Barton. The new Nelson restaurant opened earlier this month while indoor dining is restricted by the province. Photo: Tyler Harper
A restaurant opens in Nelson, and no one is allowed inside

The Black Cauldron opened while indoor dining is restricted in B.C.

Jake the service dog is trained to give calming hugs to his caretaker and handler, Rae-Lynee Dicks, who lives with post-traumatic stress disorder. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Jake and Rae-Lynne: The story of a Grand Forks woman and her service dog

Jake is on his way to completing his training, but it’s been difficult to socialize him in the pandemic

Dr. Bonnie Henry gives her daily media briefing regarding Covid-19 for the province of British Columbia in Victoria, B.C, Monday, December 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
BREAKING: Toddler marks youngest British Columbian to die related to COVID-19

Child one of eight people to die from virus this weekend

Chakalaka Bar & Grill remains open in defiance of orders from Island Health to close. (Cole Schisler photo)
B.C. health authority seeks injunction against restaurant defying COVID-19 orders

Chakalaka Bar and Grill plans to continue serving customers without public health compliance

Kimberley's Steve Tersmette has published Waterfall Hikes In Southern British Columbia, documenting 100 of the areas waterfalls.
Pharmacist Barbara Violo arranges all the empty vials of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines that she has provided to customers at the Junction Chemist which is a independent pharmacy during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto, on Monday, April 19, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
B.C. to open up AstraZeneca vaccines for all people 40+, set up clinics in hot spots

A total of 13 neighbourhoods and communities will receive the AstraZeneca vaccine

Carver Ken Sheen had almost finished work on a large cowboy carving commissioned by the City of Williams Lake to replace the original overlooking the Stampede Grounds when fire broke out Friday, April 18 at his property between Williams Lake and Quesnel. (Pine River Carving Facebook photos)
Cow boss statue destined for Williams Lake Stampede Grounds goes up in flames

Carver Ken Sheen lost the statue, all his tools and his shop in the blaze

B.C. Labour Minister Harry Bains. (Hansard TV)
B.C. moves to protect employee pay for COVID-19 vaccination

Most won’t need to take time off work, labour minister says

Most Read