Recent mutual aid project aims to combat food insecurity and strengthen community
On May 23, the Victoria Community Fridge opened in Rock Bay. As the name suggests, the project involves an actual fridge that is stocked by the community and is available for anyone who needs it.
This project has been in the works since January and grew out of the Community Food Support program. Although the two are separate, they both aim to make food more accessible in Victoria.
“Food insecurity has always existed and the pandemic has only exacerbated barriers to people accessing food,” says Wren Shaman, an active volunteer for both projects. “Creating free and accessible food is a really tangible way to take a load off people’s shoulders and strengthen our community.”
Mutual aid is at the crux of the Community Fridge as it is not a charitable organization. This means it is entirely volunteer run and dependent on the community to keep it running. The fridge operates in a decentralized manner and welcomes participation from everyone — whether that be dropping off food or cleaning the fridge.
Shaman highlights that the project strives for a non-hierarchical structure in which all contributions are valued equally. She mostly does organization and administrative work, but at the time of the interview she was en route to the fridge to build some shelves. She says that while volunteers’ specific skills and interests are utilized whenever possible, at this stage in the project the most involved volunteers end up doing a little bit of everything to fill in the gaps.
Victoria’s Community Fridge is part of a wave of fridges that have recently sprouted up across North America in response to the pandemic and increasing food insecurity.
As is common with economic and health crises, marginalized populations have been hit the hardest by COVID-19. This not only means more difficulties for many groups over the past year, but also threatens to further entrench pre-pandemic disparities into the future. Addressing the issue of food accessibility through community fridge projects is one way of combating this. For those in need of food or other essentials, Victoria’s Community Fridge is a safe and easy way to access items free of judgement and bureaucracy.
“People can go to it whenever they like and take as much as they like. Always. No questions asked,” Shaman explains.
In the short term, Shaman hopes that the Community Fridge will be fully accepted and utilized in the community. In the long term the goal is for the project to expand into a network of fridges which would function as neighbourhood hubs, to increase food accessibility across Victoria. Again, this goal is reliant on volunteers and community involvement. Finding locations and equipment are essential to getting a project like this off the ground.
For this community fridge, volunteers did a lot of outreach before finding a place to house the pilot fridge. In the end, The Number, a media and design firm, donated a space for the fridge, and Shaman is hopeful that this will encourage other businesses to consider doing the same in the future. The Oak Bay Community Centre donated the commercial fridge for the project, which freed up some crowdsourced funds to do some initial stocking of the fridge as awareness and participation continue to grow.
For those that would like to get involved, Shaman says Instagram is the best way to keep up to date with meetings, cleaning schedules, food levels, and other news for the project. Folks who are interested are encouraged to come to meetings and get involved with project organization.
Food and hygiene product drop off are always welcome in both small and large quantities. It’s best to check the Community Fridge Instagram regarding donation guidelines, as some items are not accepted due to food safety restrictions.
The Fridge is open 24-hours a day, 7 days a week. The Community Fridge can be found at The Number at 2725 Rock Bay Avenue and on Instagram at @communityfridgevictoria.