By our resident storyteller, Victoria Stewart

Brixton People’s Fridge. Heard of it?

If not, it’s a fridge called Freddie. Well, it’s a fridge in the sense that it looks like one, acts like one and it has food in it. After that, everything about it is different to the ones most of us are used to.

For a start, this fridge has 1700 followers on Twitter.

This one is also not hidden away in someone’s kitchen (it’s set up in open air at the back of POP Brixton), so that anyone, from individuals to restaurants and retailers, can donate fresh surplus food (anything except raw meat, raw fish, opened milk) to it. To really simplify things, the idea is that a little bit less food gets wasted and people who are really in need of that food can take it.

founders
4 of the co-founders Ben Longman, Olivia Haughton, Rebecca Trevalyan and Sebastian Wood

Then there’s the people behind it, who are all volunteers from Impact Hub Brixton, Pop Brixton and the local area. Four of the Hubbers include Olivia Haughton, Ben Longman, Rebecca Trevalyan and Sebastian Wood, and together they started a successful crowdfunding campaign in 2016 raising £2000 to set the fridge up.

This fridge has also been talked about on the BBC; in Metro, Time Out, Huffington Post and The Independent, in the Brixton Bugle; on Hot Dinners; Foodism Magazine; and the Southwark Weekender. News of it has even reached France on Canal+ and a Colombian radio station.

Until this point, food donations have included 100 bagels from an anonymous donor, tomato ketchup from Dr Wills, bread rolls, and vegetables. Wahaca Brixton has also agreed to begin donating food.

So there’s a lot about this fridge that makes it unusual. Add to that the stories of all the people who put food in it, the people who take – and now rely on taking – food from it, the people who tweet about it, the people who clean and monitor it, and all the people who talk about it, and in short you have a single fridge that connects a lot of people.

Here we meet three of the local Brixton businesses who regularly donate food to the fridge to hear why they do.

 

fridge
The Fridge filled with food

Kelly Rogers, bar staff member at Ritzy Picturehouse Cinema

What do you put in?

Mostly we put in cakes and pastries. We get a lot of them every day, and quite often we’ll have them left over in the evenings. It used to be a thing where staff might secretly snaffle them away but then we realised we could donate them to the fridge, as it’s a nice thing that’s been set up. All our stuff is delivered by a bakery most days – they’re all very nice!

How did you hear about it?

I think [staff members] go to Pop Brixton quite a lot, and I think the fridge team dropped some leaflets in. After that it was some of the other staff who took the initiative and got involved.

Why did they want to get involved?

I think it’s a really great thing. The thing that impressed us about it was that it was judgement-free. Obviously we’ve got a huge and growing problem of poverty and food poverty and any little things that can try and help that are worth doing.

The cakes aren’t the healthiest option we can give people in Brixton but it’s also quite nice for them to come and get a cake when generally it wouldn’t be something they would be able to buy.

picturehouses.com

 

Laura Winningham, CEO, City Harvest

City Harvest redistributes food using its fleet of six refrigerated vans.

A driver from City Harvest drops off some vegetables
A driver from City Harvest drops off some vegetables

What do you put in?

Usually we’re picking up perishable food, ready meals and frozen things, and we have a fleet of refrigerated vans which delivers to places that have health and safety certificates. So with the People’s Fridge, we’re particularly careful, giving mainly vegetables like artichokes, asparagus, carrots and mushrooms.

How did you hear about it?

My team members have gone to several of the Brixton Food Forums, and what I gather is that Brixton is a hub of activity among these food waste warriors and it’s really nice – and impressive – in London that there are organic groups of people trying to get things done. Even if we can help raise awareness by giving a few pieces of asparagus each week, it’s still great, because someone might see it and become aware of it, then implement it somewhere else. That’s important. it’s not feeding big groups of people, but I think all the different groups participating in rescuing food and participating in feeding people are all complementary.

Why did you want to get involved?

We think it’s a nice and worthy cause. We like to get very involved in the community and we’ve tried to create hubs around London and really get to know those communities, so that we know where the need is. What we do is really complex because we’re dealing with big corporatations and their food, but on the other side we’re dealing with tiny little organisations which really are the most needy. One of our drivers who drops food off at the fridge said to me:

“It’s an interesting project. Finding ways to deal with domestic food waste is a challenge and this is a valid approach. It’s not what City Harvest does, but close enough for us to have reason to work together. The fridge works, but it needs constant monitoring to ensure it’s safely and responsibly used.”

cityharvest.org.uk

 

Carol Namuzira, manager of Burnt Toast Cafe, Brixton Village

What do you put in?

Mostly pastries like croissants and Danish pastries, some scones, carrot cake. We get them sent in every day and they’re freshly baked. Sometimes we would consume them among the staff at the end of the day but now we give them to the fridge.

How did you hear about it?

We heard about it from Sebastian Wood who came in to the cafe way before they started doing it. He told us it might happen and asked if we had any food and then did a little film about it. We decided we would give some food when it actually came to fruition.

Why did you want to get involved?

I think generally it’s a brilliant idea. There are quite a few not just homeless but people who don’t really have a lot in Brixton community, and they might have had to rely on taking things off the ground or from bins otherwise. But with the fridge they can get clean fresh food and also we don’t have to waste it which is a great thing and really beneficial to the community.

 

To hear more about what The Fridge is up to, follow it on Twitter or check out its fundraising page. And to read more about what goes on at Impact Hub Brixton, check out the blog’s homepage.