Dundee West End Community Fridge aimed to reduce food waste from local shops and food businesses, whilst making that food accessible to absolutely anyone who could use it. It resulted in much more than just reduced food waste! The Fridge is open Mon-Sat, 11-2pm, and is a purpose-built structure on the very busy thoroughfare, Perth Road. We collect surplus food from supermarkets and other businesses, bring it back to the Fridge and make sure all donations are safe to eat before putting it all on display for our visitors to take home and use. Food waste is a major contributor to climate change globally and saving these large amounts of food from ending up in landfill can make a huge difference. Our message is very clear – the food is for absolutely anyone who can use it – it’s really important that people from all different backgrounds come to visit, so there is no stigma attached for those who need it most.

Transition Dundee CIC

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Addressed Challenges:

  • Health & wellbeing
  • Food security & supply
  • Carbon emissions
  • Greater fairness/ Just transition
  • Waste/Circular economy
  • Excessive consumption

Action Areas:

  • Circular Economy
  • Food, Land Use & Agriculture
  • Finance

Initiative Purpose:

Mitigation & Adaptation

The Story

Community Fridge

The idea started when we saw Jamie Oliver on TV talking about a Community Fridge in his local neighbourhood and all the benefits it had for the environment, for people in need and for the whole community. We knew immediately that this was needed in Dundee and that as a climate project, we could do it! We got in touch with Hubbub who run the UK Community Fridge Network, applied for funding from the Scottish Governments Climate Challenge Fund, found a suitable site close to our other projects, and 18 months later in July 2019, we opened Dundee’s first (and one of Scotland’s first!) Community Fridge. 

We were blown away by the support for this project – local people were so grateful to have this in their neighbourhood and were very quick to offer their help by way of volunteering and local businesses were keen to support by donating their surplus food. Our original aim was to save 1000kg (1 tonne) of food per month, and actually ended up saving around 1 tonne per week! The demand was also much bigger than expected, with around 100 people visiting the Community Fridge each day – some who were on a low income and really needed the food, some who just wanted to come and chat to our friendly volunteers, and some who were visiting to try and reduce their carbon footprint by saving food from ending up in landfill. 

The combination of all these visitors is really what makes a Community Fridge – there is something magical to see two people from very different backgrounds talking about what they will do with the food they received that day, sharing recipes and finding commonality. Community building is one of our main aims as an organisation, the threats that we face from climate change will require us to come together and help one another, so this was extremely encouraging!

Since opening Dundee West End Community Fridge we have redistributed over 180 tonnes of food and had over 4000 different people visit – no mean feat! Several other local food projects have also since started and each of us does things a little differently, to meet the needs of our communities. In March 2020 the Dundee Community Food Network was started to help us all work together through the pandemic and what an amazing resource it has been, to learn from and help each other, helping us at the Community Fridge to help spread to the food we collect more evenly around the city.

We are so grateful to everyone that has visited, donated, and most of all volunteered at the Fridge – we couldn’t have done it without any of you. Here’s to many more years of saving surplus food – building community resilience in the face of climate change, helping to improve our city and make it an even better place to live!

Success & Outcomes

We measure how much food is collected each day (in Kg’s), how much is sent for composting (if any), the number of visitors, how many people at home will benefit from that food and if it is their first visit (so we know how many different people we’ve had visit). We also log how many miles we drive to collect the food, whether in our electric van or by volunteers driving their own cars and also how volunteers get to the fridge (walking/cycling vs driving) so we can really see the whole picture of our carbon saving measures. 

Advice for others looking to do something similar

For anyone thinking about starting a Community Fridge or similar, the best place to start researching is the Community Fridge Network by Hubbub. We spoke to several other projects all over the UK to determine what kind of Community Fridge we would build – whether outdoors like ours, or in an existing community building, the opening days/hours, how you will make the usage as fair as possible for visitors. We took a lot of inspiration from the UK’s first Community Fridge in Frome, Somerset. It was very accessible being in a busy public area, open most days of the week and a beautiful building meaning people had the best possible experience when visiting. All of these things were key to our design to make it welcoming, stigma-free for those in need and to make the community proud of having this on their doorstep. In other areas a different design might suit better, the Community Fridge Network facebook group is great for this – post your ideas or questions in there and other projects will respond with their thoughts and experiences, an invaluable resource. 

Each community has it’s own needs and desires, so community consultation is key. Speak to EVERYONE about what you are hoping to do, residents, other organisations and local businesses – you never know what advice, help and support might come out of it! We did have some initial hesitation from local businesses who feared it might have a negative outcome for them, the idea of a Community Fridge was relatively new then and there was a lot of misunderstanding about what it was, how it would work and so on. We worked hard to bring them onboard and include them in the decision making – so that they also felt some ownership over it, as should the whole community. It might be different now since there are working local examples of how successful it can be!

We have been very lucky with our volunteer team who help keep the Fridge staffed, clean, safe and a friendly inviting atmosphere for visitors. Because our project ticks a lot of boxes impact-wise we have always almost always had a lot of volunteers coming forward. Many people in our area are interested in helping the environment, helping people, or feeling like an active member of their community – there are so many benefits to taking part in a project like this that it appeals to a large number of people! Having regular celebrations, both with your volunteer team and the wider community is also key to keeping everyone engaged and appreciated – it has been difficult with Covid but definitely something we want to focus on more with the move to our new organisation, as a key principle to the Transition movement.