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

The old Yount school in Youbou has stood empty for years, but now a group has plans to turn it into a mixed-use property with affordable housing and tourist services. (Submitted)
Group sets sights on tranforming old Yount school property in Youbou

School District 79 has already commenced a process to sell the school through a formal proposal call

North Cowicha to extend the time lines of its official community plan update. (File photo)
North Cowichan to extend time line of OCP review

Municipality also adds $55,000 to OCP budget

Cowichan Capitals’ Logan Rands digs for the puck along the boards in the Alberni Valley Bulldogs’ zone midway through the third period of their BC Hockey League game at the Alberni Valley Multiplex on Saturday, April 10, 2021. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
Cowichan Capitals pick up first two wins of BCHL season

Brockman, Moffatt both up to four goals on the year

A nearly four-hour standoff at an apartment complex on Cowichan Lake Road in Duncan ended peacefully on Wednesday, April 14. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Standoff at Duncan apartment ends peacefully

Police surround building as homeowner held in apartment by adult son

B.C. Centre for Disease Control maps showing new COVID-19 cases by local health area for the week of April 4-10. (BCCDC image)
Parksville-Qualicum passes Nanaimo in new COVID-19 cases

Greater Victoria had more new cases than any other Island area: B.C. Centre for Disease Control

A woman wears a protective face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as she walks past the emergency entrance of Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Top doctor warns B.C.’s daily cases could reach 3,000 as COVID hospitalizations surge

There are more than 400 people in hospital, with 125 of them in ICU

Paper Excellence took over Catalyst Paper operations in B.C. in 2018. (Paper Excellence photo)
The plane blasted through an airport fence and down a hill, before stopping before a cement barrier on Highway 5A, right in front of a school bus. Photo submitted.
Student pilot crashes plane onto Highway 5A almost hitting school bus

Aircraft hit pavement right in front of school bus

Eight-year-old Piper and her family were raising money to help Guinevere, the bearded dragon, get a gynecological surgery. Sadly, the reptile didn’t survive the procedure. (Jackee Sullivan/Special to Langley Advance Times)
Lizard fails to survive surgery, GoFundMe dollars help Langley family offset medical bills

Guinevere, a pet bearded dragon, underwent an ovariectomy on Tuesday

A driver stopped by Saanich police following a road rage incident on April 15 was found to be impaired, in violation of a license restriction and in a damaged vehicle. They received a 90-day driving prohibition and a 30-day vehicle impound. (Saanich Police Traffic Safety Unit/Twitter)
Road rager fails breathalyzer on busy B.C. highway in vehicle he shouldn’t be driving

Saanich police say man was operating vehicle without required ignition lock

The family of Iris McNeil, shown here with members of her family, has launched a petition to deny parole for the man who murdered McNeil in 1997. (Family photo)
Family fights killer’s release from Vancouver Island prison

Shortreed serving an indeterminate sentence at William Head Institution

B.C. Premier John Horgan wears a protective face mask to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. Premier John Horgan booked to get AstraZeneca shot Friday

‘Let’s show all British Columbians that the best vaccine is the one that’s available to you now,’ he said

Doses of the Moderna COVID‑19 vaccine in a freezer trailer, to be transported to Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Pfizer to increase vaccine deliveries in Canada as Moderna supply slashed

Moderna plans to ship 650,000 doses of its vaccine to Canada by the end of the month, instead of the expected 1.2 million

Dr. Bonnie Henry speaks about the province’s COVID-19 vaccine plans during a news conference at the legislature in Victoria. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
P.1 variant likely highest in B.C. due to more testing for it: Dr. Henry

Overall, just under 60% of new daily cases in the province involve variants

Most Read