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Dundee Community Fridge redistributes more than 210 tonnes of surplus food back into the local area

Dundee community fridge
Lynsey Penny outside the Dundee Community Fridge. Image: Kim Cessford/DC Thomson.

After recently celebrating their third year in operation, the Dundee Community Fridge has managed to redistribute over 210 tonnes of food back into the local Tayside and Fife area.

As part of social enterprise Transition Dundee, the company has goals to use climate change to help local people through their various ventures including the Dundee Community Fridge.

The idea for the fridge originally came from managing director Lynsey Penny who saw something similar on a Jamie Oliver TV show in 2017.

The Dundee West End Community Fridge in action.

With only two community fridges in the UK at the time, Lynsey felt strongly that Dundee would make the perfect location to trial the initiative.

It took two years to set up the fridge which finally opened in July 2019. Since then, the project has experienced an overwhelmingly positive reaction from the public, despite the struggles of the pandemic.

The fridge now has 500 visitors a week and 1,300 people benefit from the scheme every week which sees individuals take any of the produce in the fridge or pantry area for themselves.

Lynsey says those who use the facility “really does vary” but outlined that older people, families, those struggling financially, students and lots of Ukrainian’s have been using it recently. The fridge is there for everyone to use and it also helps reduce food waste.

From working offshore to fighting food waste

Having studied an undergraduate course in Geography at Glasgow University and then then a masters in Mapping Science, Lynsey took the opportunity to work offshore in 2010.

Although it was her passion for doing something to help the environment and focus on climate change when led her back onto dry land in the end.

She said: “I ended up going offshore, but I was never really comfortable because I wanted to do something in climate change.

“It wasn’t really what I wanted to do and then when this job came up, I thought that it was something I wanted to do.”

Transition Dundee employee Julie Brown restocks one of the fridges.

The job, then advertised in 2017, was for someone to help people in need with a focus on climate change.

Lynsey took the job and almost immediately had the idea to set up a community fridge.

With herself and one other part-time worker based in the West End of the city, they thought it would be best to set up the fridge close by so they could keep an eye on it.

Local support

Once the fridge was ready Lynsey describes the reaction from locals as being “absolutely amazing”.

“I got a surprise about how popular it was going to be once I started telling people,” she said.

For locals who wish to support by donating food or anyone who would like to collect, the fridge is open from 11am to 2pm with volunteers on hand to help.

A typical basket of food given to visitors to Dundee West End.

The community fridge accepts fruit and vegetables, as long as they are whole and have not been cut or chopped.

Dried food packets of pastas, cereals, biscuits and rice that are still in their packets are also accepted.

Minimising waste

As well as taking donations from locals, the majority of the food the group receives is from supermarkets, collecting food that would have otherwise gone to waste.

The Dundee Community Fridge works with six to eight local supermarkets including Tesco, Aldi, Marks & Spencer and Sainsbury’s, and collects food between 8am and 11am to have ready for collection from the fridge between 11am to 2pm.

Surplus food is shared with Dundee community food networks.

The fridge tries its best to waste as little as it can, and in the event there is too much food, it is shared out with the local community food networks in Dundee.

Transition Dundee has found their work to benefit many people who may not have previously felt able to access food due to others needing it more.

With the focus being on reducing food waste, it allows for people from all walks of life to drop off and pick up food from the local fridge.

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