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

File photo
A man walks into a Cargill meat processing factory. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Alberta meat plant, site of COVID-19 outbreak last year, to get vaccination clinics

Nearly half of the 2,200 workers at the Cargill facility contracted the novel coronavirus and two employees died last April

Grand Chief Wilton Littlechild, left, Grand Chief Arthur Noskey, centre and Chief Aaron Young during a meeting with First Nations Chiefs and Grand Chiefs in Edmonton. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta must retract Forest Act before it becomes law: Treaty 8 grand chief

‘We are asking (the government) to pull this back and consult with us,’ says Arthur Noskey of Treaty 8 First Nations

Alberta’s largest school board says it will not use the United Conservative government’s draft elementary school curriculum pilot this fall. (Ben Hohenstatt/Juneau Empire)
Calgary school board says no to United Conservative draft school curriculum

Other school boards including Edmonton Public, Edmonton Catholic, Elk Island Public, Wild Rose, Medicine Hat Public, Medicine Hat Catholic and Lethbridge Public have also rejected it

Alberta reported its highest number of daily COVID-19 cases since December 16 on Friday. (NIAID-RML via AP)
Alberta reports 1,521 additional COVID-19 cases, 674 new variant cases

Daily case total the highest since mid-December

A cross made out of hockey sticks at a makeshift memorial is silhouetted against the setting sun at the intersection of a fatal bus crash near Tisdale, Sask., on Monday, April, 9, 2018. A virtual tribute is planned to mark the third anniversary of the Humboldt Broncos bus crash. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
VIDEO: Humboldt Broncos team to be honoured on third anniversary of fatal bus crash

16 people died and 13 were injured when a semi-trailer ran a stop sign into the path of the hockey team’s bus

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a technical briefing on the COVID pandemic in Canada, Friday, January 15, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s ICUs see near-record of COVID-19 patients last week as variant cases double

Last week, Canadian hospitals treated an average of 2,500 patients with COVID-19, daily, up 7% from the previous week

Vancouver’s park board general manager issued a new order Friday restricting tents and other temporary structures from being set up in Strathcona Park after April 30, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Vancouver park board issues order to restrict tents in Strathcona Park

The order issued Friday restricted tents and other temporary structures from being set up after April 30

Stettler’s own Renegade Station is kicking off the spring season with a brand new single - to be released April 9th. (Photo submitted)
A brand new single is on the way from Stettler-based band Renegade Station

Free Free Free hits all streaming platforms on April 9th

Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau waits for a virtual meeting to begin with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Ottawa, Friday February 26, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Ottawa mulls exempting more workers from Canada-U.S. border shutdown: Garneau

Canada-U.S. border has been closed to people travelling for vacations and other non-essential visits since March 2020

A worker smooths concrete at a construction site in Toronto on January 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston
Economy adds 303,000 jobs in March, unemployment rate falls: Statistics Canada

Figure released this morning outpaced the 259,000 gain seen in February

FILE - This file photo dated July 10, 1947 shows the official photograph of Britain’s Princess Elizabeth and her fiance, Lieut. Philip Mountbatten in London. Buckingham Palace says Prince Philip, husband of Queen Elizabeth II, has died aged 99. (AP Photo/File)
Prince Philip, husband of Queen Elizabeth II, dies at 99

Philip spent a month in hospital earlier this year before being released on March 16

Campbell River city council will continue its 2020 policy of waiving late fees and NSFs. (Mirror File photo)
53% of Canadians teetering the brink of insolvency: survey

A majority of Canadians admit they’re just $200 away from not being able to pay their monthly bills

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney listens as the 2021 budget is delivered in Edmonton Alta, on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Kenney faces criticism from doctors, his own caucus, over new COVID-19 health rules

Alberta now has more than 10,000 active cases, about 43 per cent are variants

Most Read