Clare Davies, CEO, Mid Surrey Community Fridges, spoke about her work to members of SI Epsom and District yesterday. To begin with, Clare described the setting up of the community fridges in Surrey when she and colleagues felt something needed to be done about the surplus of food being produced which was being turned over to landfill sites. In 2019, they were able to work with a charity called Fare Share who receive food from large organisations such as Tesco’s and Waitrose. The local housing association suggested setting up a community fridge at the North Leatherhead, Trinity Centre. Funding from the Community Foundation for Surrey provided them with a mobile fridge. The idea was that people came to collect food for a donation of £2.50 and it was not based on need in the same way that foodbanks operate.
The situation, however, changed during the pandemic. Restaurants and the commercial sector closed down and because of this, there was a very large surplus of food. The Mid Surrey Community Fridges were giving away around 10 tonnes of food a week. They became a referral agency and delivered to people in need, NHS workers, schools and community organisations. A lot of people needed support. They were able to set up a warehouse in Dorking with emergency COVID funding. In July 2020, a record high of 1029 bags were sent out to people. By the end of the 2 years in the pandemic, 69, 000 food bags had been distributed.
Now we are out of lockdown, they have reverted to encouraging anyone, not necessarily those who have been referred, to come along and take a bag. Each bag would normally be worth £15 – £20 which includes fresh fruit and vegetables and people are asked to donate £2.50 if they can. Clare mentioned about 4000 bananas a week are being handed out!
With an emerging food and fuel crisis, the situation could be changing again and they are already beginning to thinking about how to support people. Clare said that although they have a number of volunteers, more people would be welcome to help. You can visit their website for more information about donations and volunteering: https://midsurreycommunityfridges.co.uk/
Here is a short video clip of Clare talking about setting up community fridges.