Providing Healthy and Free Food with Calgary Community Fridge

It’s often difficult to maintain a healthy, diverse diet when experiencing financial constraints. This week we spoke to Calgary Community Fridge about how they’re providing resources to our communities to provide healthy, fresh and free food to those who need it, whenever they need it.

Calgary Community Fridge

Describe your charity/non-profit in a few sentences.

Calgary Community Fridge is a mutual aid project aimed at addressing food equity in Calgary by helping those facing financial insecurity access free, fresh and healthy food 24/7.

What problem does it aim to solve?

Food insecurity happens when people have scarce or limited access to food due to their financial situation. While all types of people are affected by food insecurity, the most impacted groups are immigrants & refugees, Indigenous peoples, those living with disability, the LGBTQ+ community, people on social assistance and our unhoused population. Low income and high living costs create a disparity between what people need and what they can afford. AHS studies show that 1 in every 10 households in our province is food insecure.

When forced by financial limitations to choose between basic necessities such as shelter, clothing and food, many individuals make concessions around food. Skipping meals or consuming heavily processed and/or low quality (high caloric) goods are some of the ways in which people cope with food insecurity. The mental, emotional and physical effects of these compromises can be felt long term and can manifest in depression, anxiety, obesity and diabetes.

When did you start/join it?

We got this project up and running in August, it took us three weeks from initial conversations to building and stocking the fridge.

What made you want to get involved?

With COVID-19 and an ongoing recession, we’re more concerned than ever for our community’s health and wellbeing. By organizing and redistributing wealth and resources, we can collectively contribute to community care.

What was the situation like when you started & How has it changed since?

Calgary Community Fridge started with a free fridge and some determination. We navigated bylaws, insurance, AHS and many other hurdles to have it evolve into what it currently is- an (almost fully!) winterized shed that houses a fridge, deep freeze and a pantry for essentials. We began by stocking it ourselves and promoting the cause to friends and family on social media. We now have a GoFundMe that keeps growing from donations, an amazing crew of weekly volunteers and local business partners!

The fridge, pantry, and freezer area get emptied and replenished within a matter of hours and up to several times a day. It’s hard to understand the full impact beyond use, because this is a 24/7 outdoor space where anonymity and dignity are themes we try to emphasize. We have some lovely confidential notes from volunteers and fridge users through a feedback form we also have, as well as public notes on our GoFundMe. We are seeing use from all over the city, from different racial, economical and social groups as well. We are constantly shocked by just how many are affected by food scarcity.

What more needs to be done?

We’re just getting our doors on to finish our winterizing. Next up is creating a user manual for those who want to start & maintain fridges in their own neighborhoods. We are also looking into setting up a free store in the future- free stuff for all!

How can our readers help?

Stop by the fridge with food, share information about the space to friends, family, any of your networks! Every little bit helps. You can also donate monetarily through our GoFundMe.

Do you have any events coming up?

Hoping to organize another food drive, but our community has been so active at collecting group donations on their own accord for the fridge, that we have been really fortunate these past few months with keeping the shelves stocked. Elementary schools, local businesses and individuals are all pitching in to gather donations for the fridge!

Where can we follow you?

You can find Calgary Community Fridge on our Instagram, or if you don’t have that, we have a Facebook account too!

PAY IT FORWARD: What is an awesome Calgary charity that you love?

Grow Calgary! They are an urban community farm and help support Calgarians who lack access to fresh, healthy food and have been one of many wonderful organizations supporting us since we started. You can volunteer at their farm or donate to them here.