Kitchener-Waterloo

Community fridge in downtown Kitchener 'about filling hungry stomachs,' organizer says

It's been six months since a community fridge was introduced in downtown Kitchener. Organizers with the Community Fridge KW said the fridge has helped people who may be experiencing food insecurity because of the pandemic access food and fresh produce.

Community fridge in downtown Kitchener helps vulnerable people, those experiencing food insecurity

The Community Fridge KW first started as a pilot at Zero Waste Bulk in uptown Waterloo before it came to downtown Kitchener in December 2020. (Carmen Groleau/CBC)

A community fridge in downtown Kitchener has gone a long way in helping people access food and fresh produce throughout the past six months, organizers say.

The community fridge is located outside Full Circle Foods on Charles Street and is open 24-hours a day for anyone who is in need. 

"We see it based on the food everyday," Kamil Ahmed, an organizer with the Community Fridge KW, told CBC Kitchener-Waterloo.

"We can see there is a full fridge at 9 a.m. and by 12:30 p.m. there's nothing left."

Ahmed said they introduced the Community Fridge KW in August 2020 to help those experiencing food insecurity because of the impacts of the pandemic. 

"We know the fridge's impact is far reaching beyond even the most direct areas next to downtown Kitchener," he said.

"Neighbours are taking food for other neighbours or family members are taking food to other family members around the region."

The Community Fridge KW has been running in downtown Kitchener for six months and has helped people access food like bread, fruits and vegetables. (Carmen Groleau/CBC)

'It's not about how many people we serve'

The group doesn't collect information or data on who uses the fridge or how many times individuals access food. Often, people feel like they need to explain to volunteers why they need to take food from the fridge, Ahmed said.

"We all recognize that there's going to be times when all of us can give and there's going to be times when all of us need to take something so the point of not collecting data is to uphold human dignity," Ahmed explained.

"It's not about how many people we serve. It's about filling hungry stomachs."

Despite not having that information, Ahmed said they know the fridge is making a difference in people's lives.

He said volunteers at the site who stock the fridge or clean it get regular feedback from people who share their gratitude and often hear stories from people who take food for a neighbour in need.

Lessons learned from pilot

The fridge started out as a pilot at Zero Waste Bulk in uptown Waterloo before it was moved to its current location in downtown Kitchener in December 2020.

Ahmed said there were significant takeaways from the pilot, most importantly, making sure the fridge was accessible 24/7 and outdoors. Its location was also key to help vulnerable populations access food.

"We learned location is incredibly important, especially for our community because so many of our most vulnerable are located around the downtown core," he said.

Ahmed said the group is in the works to hopefully introduce more community fridges to the community and are putting a call out for businesses or community spaces to get involved.

"We've been open for more than six months now and are looking at a potential next location to continue to serve our neighbours," he said.

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