City shuts down Parkdale community fridge but organizers hope to find it a new private home
City claims fridge is abandoned, poses risk to children, but organizers say it fills a need
Organizers of a community fridge in Parkdale say the city "heartlessly" ordered it removed but they are hoping to find a new home for it on accessible private property.
In an Instagram post on Monday, clothing store Black Diamond Vintage said it removed the fridge with "sadness and anger" from its spot outside the store at 1614 Queen St. W. last week. The store hosted the fridge, which operated on the principle: "Take what you need. Leave what you can."
The store said the city threatened to fine its landlord if the fridge was not removed within 24 hours.
According to the city, the fridge had to be removed due to public safety concerns, sanitation issues amid the pandemic, and its abandoned appliances bylaw — which is in place to prevent children from getting trapped in discarded appliances outdoors.
According to the store, the fridge was not abandoned and the bylaw is antiquated.
"Every day, the community brought a bounty of food to this fridge to share with their fellow community members who needed it; it become a staple of mutual aid in Parkdale," Black Diamond Vintage said in the post.
"With a lockdown in place and the arrival of winter looming, it is obvious that the City of Toronto does not care about its vulnerable community."
'Food is a right in our eyes'
Jalil Bokhari, founder and community organizer of Community Fridges Toronto, said on Monday that the fridge was one of five maintained by his organization.
The four others are still running on College Street, Dundas Street East, Adelaide Street West and Pape Avenue, and providing food to various Toronto communities. He said neighbours are helping each other.
"Food is a right in our eyes," he said.
Bokhari said the city's order is upsetting because the fridge was a source of "fresh, good looking food" for many people in Parkdale and food insecurity is an issue in the neighbourhood. The city also failed to help provide a solution, he added.
"It kind of hurt to have that bylaw used against this fridge because it just didn't seem like it applied. It's not an abandoned appliance. It just isn't. There's constant usage of it. There are people who stop by constantly to drop off food," he said.
Bokhari said the fridge was well-maintained and sanitized every day. It was also emptied and refilled many times a day, he added. The fridge was filling a need in Parkdale, he said.
Fridge removal leaves community 'quite sad'
"The day that they were removing it, there were a lot of people quite sad about it. There were a lot of people relying on the fridge."
Bokhari said the search is on for private property, accessible to the public, where the fridge could be relocated. The organization may set up a pantry as well to go with the fridge, he said.
Many people have reached out to help, he added.
"We're still positive. We're still going to keep going. All the other fridges are functioning. They're running," Bokhari said.
"We're still moving into toward winterizing them to have them run through the winter and hopefully keep feeding people."
In an email on Monday, the city said its enforcement officers inspected the fridge on Nov. 17 and determined that the doors were still on the appliance, it was filled with food and it was plugged in.
"The owner of the appliance was advised that it needed to be removed citing public safety and accessibility concerns, as well as the existing Abandon Appliance bylaw and sanitation issues related to stopping the spread of COVID-19," the city said in the email.
According to the city, staff "engaged" the office of Coun. Gordon Perks, who represents Ward 4 Parkdale-High Park, in the matter and the appliance was removed on Nov. 18.
Under the bylaw, nobody is allowed to "leave, keep, dispose of, abandon or permit on any land or premises, in a place accessible to children" any appliance without first removing its doors and locks "to prevent any person from being trapped in the appliance."
With files from Nathan Crocker