Regina Community Fridge Initiative Brings Food to the People
It’s difficult to truly understand the impact of food insecurity on a broad social level when you’re not the one going to bed hungry at night. Everything from “birth outcomes and maternal health, nutritional deficiencies during pregnancy and infancy affect cognition, behaviour and productivity throughout the school years and adulthood” affect our society on an individual and collective level.1
The direct impacts of food insecurity on health and wellbeing result in higher rates of healthcare utilization and costs. During a global pandemic, avoiding extra pressures on the healthcare system that stem from gaps in socioeconomic issues is ideal when the healthcare system is stretched thin. The pandemic has also unveiled the schism that individuals living in poverty experience in every part of their lives.
In the Cost of Healthy Eating in Saskatchewan Report from 2015 and revised in 2017, noted “research has indicated that in Saskatchewan, 10.6 per cent of households and 19 per cent of Saskatchewan children experience food insecurity. These statistics do not include households on First Nation reserves or people who may be transient or homeless. The true estimate of food insecurity in Saskatchewan is likely much higher.”2
Making a Difference
The Regina Community Fridge Initiative opened mid-December 2020 and has been a source of relief for many experiencing food insecurity in Regina during the pandemic. It allows the community free, 24/7 easy access to fresh and nutritious food.
Food is freely available for anyone who needs it. You take what you need and leave what you can; it’s a little like the Little Free Library that turned into mini food banks over the pandemic, but on a bigger scale.
Founders Danielle Froh and Brianna Kroener launched the Community Fridge based off community fridge models established in Calgary and Toronto.
I caught up with Regina Community Fridge Volunteer, Josée O’Blenis, about her experience volunteering for the initiative.
“In a world where it is easier to turn a blind eye on the pain and hurt our fellow humans face each day, we must take off the rose-coloured glasses and become part of a much-needed healing journey. The Community Fridge gives a sense of ownership through mutual aid, by empowering the people. Everyone has a say [in how the fridge functions] and that is what pulled at my heartstrings! I live to serve; it’s how I was raised, and it is ingrained in my faith and deepest beliefs. Our biggest concern [for the fridge] is keeping everyone safe in the midst of a pandemic. We have an amazing team of volunteers and wonderful community members. Together we will prevail over food insecurity!”
Social media has been integral to open communication about the fridge, notifying volunteers and community members who access the fridge as to its status (full or empty), how community members can contribute, and how to help keep it stocked and cleaned.
Regina’s Community Fridge provided information on their Instagram profile, with links for fundraising activities, volunteer cleaning shifts (the fridge is sanitized twice daily!), and how to donate. Several local businesses have donated labour, food and supplies, and people post their grocery shopping trips to fill up the fridge.
The Regina Community Fridge is located at 3037 Dewdney Avenue in the North Central area, humming outside of Regina Family Pharmacy. The idea has been so successful that a second fridge has opened in Cathedral Village in the parking lot of Holy Rosary Cathedral at 2104 Garnet Street.
If you’re looking to donate:
- Granola bars, dry goods, pasta, jam, crackers, dry soups, baking ingredients and single-serving snacks
- Canned foods such as soup, beans, pasta, fruit and vegetables
- Eggs and dairy products such as milk, yogurt and cheese
- Bread, muffins, buns and baked desserts
- Sealed deli meats and grocery store rotisserie chickens
- Fresh or frozen fruit and vegetables
- Sealed non-alcoholic beverages (juice, milk, water, etc.)
- Baby food, formula, wipes and diapers
- Hygiene products such as toiletries, personal care items and cleaning products
- Pet food for dogs and cas
Fridge organizers also accept food ingredient donations that they will have prepared by food safety trained volunteers for the fridge. For safety reasons all items must be sealed, new and labelled—nothing opened, damaged, expired, leftover or homemade—and no raw meat or seafood.
Businesses and individuals are always welcome to donate or volunteer.
1,2The Cost of Healthy Eating in Saskatchewan, Saskatchewan Food Costing Task Group, http://skfn.ca/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/108718-SK_2015_The_Cost_of_Healthy_Eating_FINAL_updated_2017_11_22.pdf