First Community Fridge in West Sussex officially opens, sharing out food waste with everyone

The Community Fridge scheme, a simple solution to wasting less food through the sharing of good-quality surpluses, has officially launched in West Sussex.

Trials for Littlehampton Community Fridge have been running at Littlehampton Library for 16 weeks and in that time, the fridge has shared out four tonnes of food that otherwise would have gone to landfill.

Littlehampton Community Fridge founder Sarah Ranfrey and Littlehampton mayor Tracey Baker with supporters at Littlehampton Library

Littlehampton Community Fridge founder Sarah Ranfrey and Littlehampton mayor Tracey Baker with supporters at Littlehampton Library

Founder Sarah Ranfrey said it was truly horrifying to see how much food goes to waste – billions of pounds worth across the UK – but businesses had few solutions for giving away items that are past their sell by date but within their use by date.

She set up Fare Divide, which will operate the Littlehampton fridge on a trust basis, as part of the UK-wide Community Fridge network run by the Hubbub Foundation.

Sarah said: “Community fridges are a simple way of making excess food from businesses and allotments available to the community. It can be taken by anyone who can use it.

“The most frequent items are fruit and veg but we have also had toothpaste, toilet paper and even a box of geraniums. It can be tricky because you never know what will be available when.

“It is about using excess rather than people buying things to donate. We have been very grateful to the allotment holders who have been donating over the summer and their produce has been very gratefully received.

“The library has been kind and enthusiastic and got behind the project wholeheartedly.”

Sarah and the library staff have learned a lot since the pilot started on July 8 and she said it had been a bit of a challenge but the official launch was a celebration of how far they had come.

Littlehampton mayor Tracey Baker cut the ribbon to open the fridge and gave her full support to the project.

She said: “As we all know, food waste is a growing issue. It is incomprehensible the amount, and it is edible food, not out-of-date items. This is so important, especially in a time when so many people face hardship.

“I have nothing but gratitude and praise. We are grateful to everyone. Long may it continue.”

A celebratory cake was provided by Helen Bradshaw from Free Cakes for Kids Littlehampton, a voluntary group which makes birthday cakes for children whose families are unable to provide one themselves.

Current opening times for Littlehampton Community Fridge are Monday late morning to 5.30pm, Tuesday and Wednesday mid-morning to 5.30pm, Friday mid-Morning to 4.30pm.

Sarah said: “People can have confidence in the way we handle the food. We are hoping to support other communities in West Sussex to open fridges in their area. If there is anyone who would like to open a fridge I would be interested in speaking to them.

“Our donors and volunteers have saved an amazing four tonnes of food going to landfill in our first three months of trials and we are looking for more local food donors who may be trying to become zero-waste.”

Sarah first heard about community fridges from a friend on Facebook and said as she had worked in the food industry, she was well aware just how much food is wasted at every stage.

She said: “I could see what a simple, great idea it was and I could see how much food was going through the fridges. I was moved to try to open a community fridge locally.

“In the case that we do have to waste any food, we have hot compost, so it will not go to landfill.”

The fridge is open to everyone and the allocation is five items per adult per day, so as many people as possible can benefit.

Sarah said: “There is a pay as you feel element, if people wish to donate, but if not, you know you are saving food from landfill.”

Fare Divide has already linked with a number of businesses in Littlehampton but Sarah is still looking for more, either to give surplus food or offer support in other ways.

Visit faredivide.org.uk/littlehampton-community-fridge-2 or find Littlehampton Community Fridge on Facebook.