What is a Community Fridge?
Abeego HQ has spent the lion’s share of its operating life located in the one-of-a-kind community of Rock Bay in Victoria, BC, Canada. Brimming with vibrance and creativity, Rock Bay is home to businesses like Elate Cosmetics, Hoyne Brewing, Parachute Ice Cream, Wheelies, Working Culture, Bows & Arrows, and the list goes on! We're in pretty great company.
Across the street from Abeego lives The Number—a creative agency and inception center for so many of Rock Bay’s community initiatives, including Victoria’s first Community Fridge!
A Community Fridge is a public fridge & pantry that makes groceries free & accessible to anyone who needs them. They’re stocked by community members for community members. Wren Shaman, Community Fridge Victoria Volunteer, says these fridges operate on a “take what you need, leave what you can” basis.
At Abeego, we’re on a mission to Keep Food Alive in pursuit of food for all and are of the belief that food is an integral part in building strong communities. While this is true on a global scale, there’s something special about fostering reciprocity around food within the community we live, work, play, and harvest.
Food and community are the pillars of a Community Fridge, so you can understand how jazzed we were when it opened in our hood in the spring. Recently, we sat down with Wren Shaman, and Jaime Fogg, Social Media Manager and Junior Production Designer at The Number, to learn more.
Can you tell us a bit more about Community Fridges in general? (Wren Shaman of Community Fridge Victoria)
In many other cities across Canada and the USA, community fridges have been a huge success: including fridges in Calgary, Regina, and Vancouver. These fridge projects share the principles of community care and mutual aid as central components of the project. Fridges operate on the premise that everyone has something to contribute! The Victoria fridge has been well received, and we are excited to continue building the fridge network. Community fridges are amazing places where folks come together for a common cause to share food, minimize food waste and work together.
How did Community Fridges get their start and how did you first become aware of them? (Wren Shaman of Community Fridge Victoria)
I’m not sure how community fridges got their start, but the practice of mutual aid itself has a very long history, especially in BIPOC communities. I became aware of community fridges in 2019 as the network of fridges started to grow rapidly with the onset of the pandemic and as food insecurity grew rapidly. Prior to the pandemic (2017-2018) it is estimated that 1 in 8 families were food insecure but from 2019-2020 studies suggest that number increased to 1 in 7 families (14.6% of Canadians), and I (Wren) really see the increased number of fridges as a response to the growing need and instability.
What inspired you to be home to a Community Fridge in Victoria? How did you become involved? (Jaime Fogg of The Number)
I became involved because one of my jobs within The Number is to help with the Rock Bay Business Community (RBBC) initiatives. The RBBC had been looking for a larger initiative to support for the 2021 year, and when we were contacted with this opportunity I knew it’d be a great fit due to its inherent values.
It’s a placemaking, food security, and mutual aid project all rolled into one! Basically, once we were presented with the idea I helped to get the ball rolling on The Number side of things, although all the credit goes to the Community Fridge volunteers - they’ve been fantastic from day one, always there to help out, to get things moving, and ensure the fridge is an accessible place for all. On a more personal level, over the past few years I have developed a strong interest in grassroots community development initiatives and an appreciation for the important work that they do for marginalized community members and the wider community as a whole. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to be involved with the Community Fridge initiative through work, getting to see it and witness its benefits every day!
What’s your dream/goal for Community Fridge Victoria? Where do you see the project in one year or 5 years? (Wren Shaman of Community Fridge Victoria)
For Community Fridge Victoria I would love to see the project continue to grow. The support we’ve had in the community has been outstanding, but it would be really cool to have more fridges and have communities take more ownership of them. Part of the really cool aspect of fridges is how decentralized they can be, so having a network of self-sustaining fridges around the city is definitely my dream. Another dream is having more funky ways to support the fridge, for example tabling at markets to meet people, raise awareness, fundraise, and collect donations. One super cool model is the Good Neighbour thrift store that opened in Calgary to support their fridge network. It’s pay what you can, and the space is donated, goods to sell are donated, and volunteers donate their time to run the store. It’s so incredibly cool, something like that is definitely my dream. I totally recommend checking it out
Many people aren’t familiar with the concept of “food deserts" (an area where little fresh produce is available for sale). How do Community Fridges help combat the inequality of access to fresh produce in cities? (Vanessa of Community Fridge Victoria)
Community fridges are especially valuable in cities or locations deemed “food deserts” because they provide free access to items, such as fresh produce, that contribute to a balanced and healthy diet but that may not be grown locally or are commonly inaccessible due to rising costs. Community Fridges help to fill a much-needed gap in communities where fast food or other convenient and often far less healthy options are more readily available and affordable. Everyone deserves access to fresh and healthy food regardless of their socio-economic status or if they are living in a rural or urban setting.
At Abeego, Hunger to Feed is one of our values. Why do you feel that it’s important for businesses to connect in ways to their local community? (Jaime Fogg of The Number)
I feel that it’s important for businesses to support their community in meaningful ways because, after all, it is the community members that allow businesses to thrive by buying/consuming the product or service that the business is offering. I would hope that businesses feel they have an ethical duty to support their community in various ways, whether that is through a focus on environmental impacts, social justice issues, or any other community development initiative that fits their niche market!
At Abeego, Hunger to Feed is one of our values. What’s the best way individuals and/or businesses can support feeding our community? (Wren Shaman of Community Fridge Victoria)
There are SO many ways to support feeding your community, but independently organizing fundraisers, events, or food drives is a great way to support us in supporting our community! For businesses especially, considering things like a community item where all the proceeds from that item are donated, or a portion of sales, or a day/event where proceeds are donated are all great options.
For individuals, everyone has different capacity levels, so if hosting a fridge or pantry is something you can do that’s one way, or hosting neighborhood collections, fundraisers to support this fridge, or getting involved in volunteering with our team are other great ways. We are always really happy to find ways to work together. One really cool way to support feeding our communities is to organize your own networks. One example is Selkirk Montessori School. Through the work of a parent, the school has set up a food drive bin. Families send donations to school with their children and once a week a volunteer drives all the food down to the fridge. The Grade 8 students are involved in a leadership role too, helping to coordinate the project with the parent volunteer. What a cool way to gather food and educate students about nutrition, food security, and community care!! The same could be done at other schools, at community centers, at businesses, or in homes in neighbourhoods! Getting involved by volunteering is an awesome way to support feeding the community, and there are so many great groups in Victoria to work with. Community Food Support is our partner organization and they are always looking for volunteers too.
What’s something that we can always find in Rock Bay’s Community Fridge? (Vanessa of Community Fridge Victoria)
Space for more donations! Due to the nature of how the fridge and pantry remain stocked, it is difficult for the same types of items to be available on a consistent basis. However, items most commonly seen include dried pasta and canned goods.
It is with deep respect and gratitude that we create, build and operate our business in the communities of Southern Vancouver Island, which as a business we acknowledge is located within the ancestral and unceded territories of the lək̓ʷəŋən (Lekwungen) (Esquimalt and Songhees), Malahat, Pacheedaht, Scia'new, T’Sou-ke and W̱SÁNEĆ (Pauquachin, Tsartlip, Tsawout, Tseycum) peoples.