Littlehampton Community Fridge’s Sarah Renfrey spoke with Valerie Hart recently about how she set up the first in a network of ‘fridges’ across West Sussex.
V: Hi Sarah, tell us what gave you the idea of setting up the project?
S: I started the project in 2019 after having been motivated by a friend opening a community fridge in Dorking and seeing how great the food was she was getting. I hate food waste. Having worked in the food industry as a process engineer, I wanted to help stop the waste.
Community fridges have been growing in popularity, with many more joining the community fridge network around the UK as part of the environmental charity Hubbub.
V: How has the network expanded across West Sussex and how do the fridges operate?
S: The Littlehampton Community Fridge was the first one we opened in West Sussex followed by one In Horsham in November 2020, initiating our West Sussex Community Fridge Network. We also hope to open a third community fridge in Steyning in June.
We also recently launched the Littlehampton Community Fridge ‘on tour’ whereby we send out a van on a Wednesday afternoon to do pop-up community fridges in Angmering, Rustington, Wick and East Preston. In this way, we can make surplus food available to a wider community.
Horsham Community Fridge has also recently started doing pop-ups on Saturdays.
The fridges are open to anyone to help themselves to up to five items and to unlimited amounts of bread – we don’t apply any criteria to who can access the fridges. Littlehampton is open every day except for Tuesdays and Sundays. At the moment we have over 100 people coming each session.
V: Where do your supplies come from and how does FareShare help?
S: FareShare Sussex provides about 20% of our total supplies. We collect some of this in our refrigerated van on a Tuesday morning, which supplies our Wednesday pop-up community fridge. The fresh fruit and vegetables are particularly welcome. We also get a delivery from UK Harvest (the food rescue and education charity). At the same time we collect supplies ourselves through FareShare Go, Neighbourly and other arrangements we’ve got with local businesses.
V: What about your funding?
S: Grants come from the National Lottery and the local council. Also, we are supported by the local Rotary clubs and Lions Club as well as supermarket schemes. We also received a community grant from Sainsbury’s. Sometimes we do village events to raise funds. Also we have donation pots at the community fridges so people can pay what they feel they can afford.
V: The pandemic must have been a very trying time. How did you keep going?
S: We started off very small, operating out of the local library, with just one fridge. When lockdown happened, the library unfortunately shut. However, we were very kindly given the run of the hall at Littlehampton’s St. James Church. Being allowed to operate from here meant we could expand and we now have 18 fridges and freezers and three to four tonnes of food coming in each week. During the lockdowns we provided over 1000 food parcels to the local community and then reverted back to a community fridge as and when we were allowed to.
We are now much bigger than before the pandemic.
V: And what about the future? Do you expect to see the project continue to grow?
S: We are seeing lots of new people coming in and trying us out as everyone is feeling the squeeze with the cost of living escalating. We collect from over 100 supermarkets per week and from local businesses and we have over 100 volunteers now, and probably 100 at Horsham as well.
There weren’t any Community Fridges in West Sussex when we started and it’s such a great way of sharing food as well as getting the community together. We have supported projects such as feeding children in half-term, and we hope to get involved in local village events such as the upcoming Littlehampton Jubilee events.