The battle against local food insecurity continues as residents rallied to raise cash to repair a Victoria community fridge and organizers seek to install a second one.
Victoria’s Community Food Support organization created the Rock Bay Avenue fridge and pantry more than a year ago. Anyone can walk up and take food, no questions asked.
“In my experience being at the fridge, the pantry and fridge can go from completely full, to empty in anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour,” Community Food Support member Jewel Bohach said. “The team currently shops for about $500 worth of groceries a week to fill the fridge. If we had the funds, we could triple that amount and still not have enough food.”
After over a year of heavy use, the fridge door broke and the appliance remains off until it can be repaired or replaced. An online fundraiser targeting $3,000 for repairs far exceeded the target within a day.
The online fundraiser will cover cost of repairs or removal and replacement as well as stocking the pantry with increased dry goods in the fridge’s absence. Additional funds raised will be used for future repairs, food and a fridge for a second location – once organizers find a space.
“If we had two, three or even four fridges right now there would still be a place for folks to access fresh food while we fixed the fridge,” Bohach said.
They’ve been looking for a second location for about a year.
“It can sometimes be a bit demoralizing doing outreach with such little success, but we are still hopeful to find that needle in a haystack. I think that the stigma surrounding people who are assumed to use a resource like a community fridge deters potential hosts,” Bohach said.
Community fridges popped up more across Canada in response to growing rates of hunger prompted by COVID-19.
According to HungerCount 2021, food bank visits increased by more than 20 per cent since 2019, with more 1.3 million visits to food banks in March 2021. HungerCount is a cross-sectional, census survey of most Canadian food bank programs compiled by Food Banks Canada.
Because of COVID-19, the organization did not conduct a survey in 2020.
Food banks in urban centres of 100,000 people or more showed massive increases in need, with 28 per cent seeing visits more than double compared to 2019.
“It is currently impossible to keep up with the need for no barrier access to food in the community. The fridge is based on ‘solidarity not charity’ and there is no divide between people who give or take food,” Bohach said.
Anyone looking to host a community fridge – with access to an electrical outlet, four to eight square feet of space and room to protect it from the elements can email email@example.com.
The Community Fridge Victoria and Oaklands Community Association co-host an event Aug. 28 where folks can meet the volunteer team, listen to some live music, learn about grass roots groups, play lawn games, and have breakfast at Oakland Community Centre, 2725 Belmont Ave. from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m.
Visit communityfoodsupport.wordpress.com to learn more about the organization.
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