Community fridge project aims to bring free, fresh produce to north Calgary

A group of friends are raising money to build a community fridge in the north Calgary neighbourhood of Crescent Heights.

Fridge, freezer and pantry will be located on the Tigerstedt Block

A mock-up image shows what the community fridge will look like when it is installed in Crescent Heights. (Submitted by Megan Kirk)

A group of friends are raising money to build a community fridge in the north Calgary neighbourhood of Crescent Heights. 

Megan Kirk said the idea was sparked after seeing some friends take on a similar project in Toronto. She and three friends decided to set a fundraising goal of $5,000 — it hit more than $13,000 in just three days.

"We really thought it has been a slow burn and it has exploded," Kirk said. 

The fridge will be located outside of 902 Centre Street North, in the Tigerstedt Block.

Community members, restaurateurs or grocers can donate food to stock the fridge, which can later be picked up by those in need, free of charge.

It will include shelves for dry goods or items like tampons, a double-door industrial fridge, and a deep freezer. Unlike the little free pantries around the city, the addition of the fridge will give people access to perishable items, like fresh produce. 

An artist will be decorating the site with a mural, and a woodworker will craft a weather-proof shed to house it. It'll be available 24/7. The fridge was purchased for $50 from a dollar store that was going out of business, and the freezer was donated by Tokyo Street Market, which is located on the same block as the future site of the fridge.

Similar fridges have been set up in Edmonton, Toronto and in the U.K. and U.S.

Sasha Lavoie, another member of the group behind the project, said the pandemic has highlighted the problems with food insecurity in Calgary.

"We felt like this was just a need that could be filled," said Lavoie.

Kirk said they've already received heart-wrenching messages from community members who have faced hardship, and are looking forward to the chance to give back.

Ideally, Kirk said, this fridge will be a pilot project — and will inspire and create a framework for other fridges to be set up around the city. 

"The hope is that this ends up being bigger than anticipated and that it's owned and designed and run by the community, for the community," she said. 

Work on the shed is underway, and the group hopes to have the fridge up and running before the end of the month.

With files from Terri Trembath