When the fridge at home is empty, this one at school helps feed hungry families

Families from Edmonton’s Grace Martin School who are struggling to make ends meet can now access free food from a community fridge set up for that purpose.

Volunteer group, businesses partner to rescue food that would otherwise be wasted

Volunteers with ICNA Sisters of Edmonton have set up a community fridge to help reduce food waste and feed hungry families. (David Bajer/CBC)

Families from Edmonton's Grace Martin School who are struggling to make ends meet can now get free food from a community fridge.

It's being stocked by a volunteer group, the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) Sisters of Edmonton. 

"The idea is to prevent the surplus food going into landfills, and then utilize it for the betterment of the community," said Afshan Fatima, civic engagement co-ordinator with the ICNA Sisters of Edmonton.

Canadians throw out an estimated 2.2 million tonnes of edible food each year worth $17 billion, according to a 2017 report by the National Zero Waste Council.

"We are trying to rescue that food, and give it to the community who actually needs it," Fatima said.

Grace Martin School is at 82nd Street and 36th Avenue in Mill Woods. Many children who attend don't have enough to eat at home, principal Dale Cooper said.

"We have kids coming to school every day hungry," Cooper said. "We have kids coming to school every day without food for lunch."

Partnering with the ICNA Sisters was a no-brainer, he said, and only required providing a space for the fridge.

"They're doing all the work. We are benefiting from this, and our parents are benefiting from this, and we hope that that can alleviate some of the needs of our school."

The food is provided by local stores and restaurants, then packaged by volunteers.

The community fridge located inside Edmonton's Grace Martin School provides free food for families in need. (David Bajer/CBC)

Anyone can take food from the fridge, which holds everything from prepared meals to fresh vegetables.

The school provides breakfast for 50 to 60 students every morning, but had to scale back the program after receiving less funding from the charity Breakfast Club of Canada, Cooper said.

He hopes the community fridge will help fill that gap.

"We had a boy just yesterday, 'Can I get more bread, Mr. Cooper, for my family? We don't have anything.' So this helps, and it's going to relieve those stresses for the kids and the parents."