Community Fridge Network | Impact report 2019-2021 | Hubbub

Page 1

Community Fridge Network I M PA C T R E P O R T: NOVEMBER 2019 TO APRIL 2021

W W W. H U B B U B . O R G . U K

Contents Introduction


Where to find us



Do you have any concerns about reopening your Community Fridge once lockdown has been lifted?

Our impact


Tales from lockdown


Impact of the Community Fridge Network



In what ways are community fridges impacting households?


Who uses community fridges? Stories from the communities


In addition to sharing good food, community fridge spaces are used for…


Where does the food come from?




In the media


Our supporters




Looking ahead


COVID-19 impact


Survey: a snapshot of the lockdown landscape


How is your community fridge operating during lockdown?


What does your organisation or group need the most right now?


Introduction Community fridges are registered spaces where surplus food is shared within a local community, by businesses and individuals. They are welcoming, social spaces and open to all.

Between November 2019 and April 2021 we estimate that 144 fridges in the CFN redistributed 4,049 tonnes of surplus food - the equivalent of over 9 million meals - to almost 1 million visitors. By the end of 2021 we predict there will be over 250 fridges in the country.

The Community Fridge Network (CFN) is coordinated by the environmental charity Hubbub, and was set up in 2017. It consists of community fridge projects in the UK that have registered with the charity, have met certain health and safety standards, and are committed to supporting each other through sharing learnings and impact.

This report outlines both the environmental and socioeconomic impacts of community fridges across the UK. For more information, please go to:

Hubbub provides free support for any group wanting to set up and run a community fridge, enabling the network to flourish across the UK and beyond. The CFN brings together major retailers, grant giving bodies, local authorities and community groups to reduce business and domestic food waste and support community resilience. This is done through increasing access to food skills and nutritious food, and supporting activities and services which promote sustainable, affordable living, such as those shown on pages 7 and 8.

e y Fridgd t i n u rte omm The C rk is suppo tery Netwo ational Lot . N d by the munity Fun ons Com rganisati hat of o A list usinesses t l and b rt individua suppo across the d s fridge can be foun ry count page 23. on 3

Where to find us There are 262 registered community fridge projects, of these:


are open

arest To find the ne , please fridge to you go to: k/ ridge community-f

Over 100

are setting up

And a growing number of community groups are expressing interest each week! Most community fridges are housed in community centres and churches. Some can be found in cafes, universities, on street locations and in other managed spaces. The way community fridges operate varies greatly, and each is tailored to meet local needs. A primary aim of the Community Fridge Network is to facilitate peer-to-peer learning and support. Through annual meet-ups (done online this year) and a private online forum we exchange ideas and learn from each other. We regularly share stories that define community fridges, what the main challenges are and our vision for the future. 4

Our impact Over the last 17 months...


9 million

4,000 tonnes

community fridges (as of May 2021)

equivalent number of meals redistributed

food redistributed

Over 300

Over 237,000

volunteers involved

beneficiaries 5

Impact of the Community Fridge Network 3.4
















1.8 1.6 1.4 0

84 Nov





















400 350 300

Average volume of food donated per fridge (tonne)






Number of open Community Fridges 6






Average number of visitors per fridge




Average number of visitors per fridge

Average volume of food donated per fridge (tonne)

NOVEMBER 2019 - APRIL 2021

In what ways are community fridges impacting households? 2019


Helped to reduce food waste as people donate to the fridge Helped to reduce food waste as people have received food saving advice/recipes at the fridge Helped to feed families Made people feel they can trust the local community more Helped individuals/families to eat a greater range of foods Helped individuals/families to eat more fruit and veg


% 7





In addition to sharing good food, community fridge spaces are used for… These additional uses of fridge spaces lead to… Food skills support households to eat well for less.

Community food growing helps communities to become more food secure and increasing resilience to future shocks.

Cooperative purchasing supports community resilience by increasing access to affordable food.



Cooking workshops or community kitchen Growing activities Sharing of household items or skills Clothes swap Food co-op Refill/reuse/repair service Delivering food surplus parcels to households


% 8




Methodology Our impact has been calculated from data provided by a sample of 55 fridges over the 17 month period. Fridges record and self-report their volumes/ impact.

Total visits: Groups report on visitor numbers per month. Each of these visitors has been record as a visit. The same visitor may visit the fridge multiple times, each constitutes a visit. This is distinct from unique visitors, see below. A visit may also include someone receiving a food parcel from the fridge during the Covid-19 response.

According to a user survey (n=48) 10% of groups were closed between April 2020 – December 2020 due to covid. To reflect this, 10% has been deducted from the number of fridges open in this period.

Total unique visitors: From the data set, groups gave total visitor numbers per month, and an estimate of how many of their visitors are unique across a given year. The average amounts for all groups who answered this for 2020 = 25% & 2021 = 21%. The two figures have been used to estimate the total unique visitors per month based on estimated network monthly visitors.

Average monthly network food redistributed: Average individual fridge food redistributed per month multiplied by the total fridges open in that month. This gives monthly network estimates and total estimate from the whole period. The average has been reached by dividing the total by the 17 month period.

Meals equivalent: WRAP recommends the use of 420g as an ‘average’ meal weight, for the purposes of illustrating the amounts of food being redistributed.

Total network food: The average monthly food redistributed from data set multiplied by the number of open fridges in that month. The sum of operating months gives the total.

Carbon: According to WRAP 2020, the carbon emissions associated with 1T of food waste within the UK amount to around 1.1778T Co2e. 9

COVID-19 impact It’s impossible to talk about the impact of the fridges this year without talking about COVID-19. Throughout lockdown, fridges across the country had to adapt very quickly. Hubbub issued regular guidance, in line with government advice, to assist the Community Fridge Network members in navigating uncharted territory. Fridge coordinators reported that in some areas the availability of food surplus dipped at the start of lockdown as people stocked up on food and household items. However, it quickly went back to the pre-COVID-19 level (or above in some cases). Around 63% of CFN members surveyed had to close temporarily and/or pivot towards a household delivery model, as you will see in the next few pages.


Survey: a snapshot of the lockdown landscape In April and May 2020, we surveyed 41 community fridge coordinators to understand more about their experience with COVID-19.


How is your community fridge operating during lockdown?

We have closed completely and the space or venue is closed The space is being used for other activities to help the community We’re still open but with increased health and safety measures Other* We deliver food parcels to vulnerable households *Other: Surplus food diverted to a local food bank, creating hot meals, and more


% 12




What does your organisation or group need the most right now? More volunteers: 2.44%

A steady flow of surplus food: 41.46%

Vehicles to transport food: 4.88% Funding for new endeavours: 7.32% More fridges or freezer: 12.20%

Other*: 12.20%

Funding for core activities: 19.51%

*Other: Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), funding for transporting food, and more


Do you have any concerns about re-opening your community fridge once lockdown has been lifted?

Yes, there are barriers to re-opening*

No, we should be able to resume activities after lockdown *Barriers to re-opening included: Increased demand (so need more space/money/volunteers), resources to ensure health and safety risks are mitigated, visitors feeling comfortable being in a room with other people, reduced number of volunteers as they return back to work


% %





Tales from lockdown “Our volunteers who have been manning the fridge since lockdown had a (socially distanced) standing ovation from five elderly ladies from the nearby residential scheme!”

“One of our regulars, Mrs C, is 89, lives alone, has no close family, and suffers from extremely poor health. She’s shielding, so can’t go to the shops and doesn’t have internet access to order supermarket deliveries. The meals we deliver to her have been, in her words, “a life-saver” and she looks forward to the daily visits of the delivery driver, because they are the only person she sees all week.”

“People tell us that good quality, free food has made a huge difference at this time. From feeding families, improving mental health, encouraging people to try new food, to improving diets.”


“One visitor said they love coming to try fruit or veg they don’t normally eat. It’s good to chat about new recipes as well.”

“Our volunteers and staff have noticed that certain residents are turning up when they are there in an effort to have social experiences. The vulnerability and isolation in the village have obviously increased during the pandemic [...] it has really highlighted how useful these meeting places can become.”

“We’ve been experiencing an amazing surge in community coming together!”

“Many people say the highlight of their week is to see what’s in their ‘goodie bag’ and really appreciate the food to keep them going while their income is reduced and more mouths to feed at home. We also share recipes and ideas for keeping food fresh for longer, or tips for freezing.”


Who uses community fridges? B A S E D O N O U R C O M M U N I T Y F R I D G E C O O R D I N AT O R S U R V E Y I N 2 0 2 0

63% of the users are known to the community fridge co-ordinators to be facing financial hardship.

“The vast majority are people who are struggling to make ends meet. They may be on benefits or working, but on low wages. They broadly reflect the make-up of the local community. Prior to lockdown, we had a higher proportion of street homeless users; now we see a wider range of people, many are families and older people.”


“I have heard people say, ‘I’m too middle class to use the community fridge!’, but once you talk to them more about food waste and explain to them that we can’t possibly re-distribute all the surplus without a concerted effort from everyone, they look at things differently.”

“I think our increasing numbers shows not only an increase in demand, but also that people really appreciate our model of ‘It’s for everyone, especially at this difficult time.”

“During lockdown we experienced an increase in people visiting the fridge due to financial hardships from loss of jobs. Usually our regular visitors are those in difficult situations, such as lone parents, elderly folks experiencing financial difficulty and those who have unfortunately happened to fall on harder times.” “Our fridge is located in an urban village setting. It’s a fairly affluent area but has pockets of poverty. Our fridge initially attracted lots of local people who wanted to make sustainable changes to their lifestyle. At the start of lockdown, we delivered parcels to those in need. Delivering to doorsteps once a week built up trust and sincere gratitude from those who we took time to help. When restrictions eased and we reopened the fridge, we have seen a huge increase of visitors. Some are out of work, some working from home, some are volunteering as they have more time, some are desperate. We get visited by a lot of refugees, families and older couples. We offer a friendly smile and take time to chat if appropriate.”


Stories from the communities “Sometimes we get birthday cakes from one of the shops. It’s really lovely when the cake can go to someone who happens to visit the fridge, who has a family member or friend whose birthday it is that day, or who might not otherwise have enjoyed a birthday cake.”

“A single mum with five kids came to the fridge to collect food at Easter and gave them all Easter eggs; the smiles will live with me forever.” “One of my favourite parts of the project is the amazing volunteer group we have. It’s a real mix of people who help out and we’ve created lifelong friendships and relationships with people we wouldn’t usually meet in normal times.”

“People have brought things to gift to the fridge (almost in exchange), such as books, food they do not want and clothing.”


Where does the food come from? The vast majority of food re-distributed via community fridges (95%) comes from national and local businesses. The rest is from domestic donations, including allotment holders.

• • • • • • • • •

Hubbub has developed a redistribution arrangement with seven retailers – Aldi, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, Tesco via Fareshare Go, Costa, Marks and Spencer and Pret a Manger. These retailers have committed to donating to any community fridge that is part of the network providing their local stores have capacity.

Other existing food surplus redistribution schemes are linking up to support community fridges in different areas, such as UK Harvest and FareShare. Londonbased projects can receive donations from The Felix Project and Plan Zheroes. There are also numerous local donors such as local grocers, markets, bakeries, stores and cafes.

The following have also donated food to fridges across the country: • • • • • • • •

Little Tummy Local allotments Loop Run Odeon Pasquier SPAR TK Maxx WAP Foods Waitrose

Asda Co-op Gail’s Bakery GOSH Hungry Horse IKEA John Lewis Lidl

If your organisation would like to give your surplus food to the Community Fridge Network, please email


In the media Since it was formed in 2017, the Community Fridge Network has had 52 pieces of coverage, with opportunities to see/hear of over 599 million. Highlights include: National Geographic Food, Food and Travel magazine, The Guardian (print and online), iNews, Timeout, BBC NI (TV, radio & online), BBC Radio 4 (You & Yours), BBC news online, The Grocer, The Big Issue (online), Huffington Post blog picked up by Yahoo News, double page spread in Vegetarian Living. We also get local and regional coverage as new fridges launched. The launch of the 100th Community Fridge at Dumfries House by HRH the Prince of Wales generated 195 pieces of coverage with opportunities to see/hear of 229 million. Coverage include: Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail (print and online), Daily Express, Yahoo! UK & Ireland, MSN UK, A piece by Press Association was picked up by over 160 regional and local titles.



Our supporters The Community Fridge Network is funded by the National Lottery Community Fund and we collaborate with other organisations and businesses to support individual fridges across the country.

• • • • •

We are also thrilled to announce that Co-op has just come on board to support another 100 fridges to establish around the UK. Watch this space!

If your organisation wants to support individual fridges or fridges in specific regions, please email If your organisation wants to support individual fridges or fridges in specific regions, please email

We’d also like to thank Liebherr in particular for donating approximately 200 fridge and freezer units to members of the CFN as well as other food initiatives since 2018. The following organisations have funded the set up and/or maintenance of individual fridges in the CFN since its inception: • • • • •

North London Waste Authority Rothschild Foundation Sainsbury’s Samsung Southwark Council

Bosch ChangeX Climate Challenge Fund Co-op Morrisons Foundation 23

Challenges COVID-19, coupled with the ongoing climate crisis, has laid bare the level of deprivation within UK society and amplified the urgent need to create more resilient communities. Community fridges are providing a lifeline for many, and in the wake of COVID-19 they have a key role in supporting community resilience by bolstering their existing impact.

Staying true to our ethos The Community Fridge Network was founded as a movement to reduce food waste and foster community spirit. The fridges can be accessed by anyone, regardless of their background. In recent months, the fridges have seen an increase in users who are financially struggling because of COVID-19. We don’t view surplus food as a solution to food poverty (or vice versa!) and know that community fridges cannot support the current level of demand within the UK. It is more vital than ever that we maximise the fridges’ potential to increase household resilience, at pace and at scale. And we’re proud to have offered grants to network members to set up growing projects, a community food hub, a recipe box scheme and a refill pantry.


Next steps A community fridge is so much more than a fridge. As the UK rebuilds from the impact of COVID-19, Hubbub believes that community fridges can evolve to help the UK meet a range of financial, social and environmental challenges including cutting food waste, promoting healthy eating, supporting people facing financial challenges and tackling loneliness. We are delighted to have the support of Co-op to help this become a reality in 100 more communities across the UK. Hubbub will continue to support the development of community fridges into dynamic community food hubs where communities can share skills, establish local food enterprises and support collaborative purchasing and ownership, from food co-ops to lending libraries. We are also sharing the results of our Food Connect trial in Milton Keynes which is using e-bikes and e-vans to help transport food surplus to community fridges!


Thank you COMMUNIT YFRIDGE@HUBBUB.ORG.UK Registered Charity Number 1158700