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Food waste warrior Lynsey saved Dundee community fridge from the chop

Transition Dundee co-founder Lynsey Penny leaves no one behind in the battle against climate change.

Lynsey Penny outside the West End community fridge holding a box of food.
Transition Dundee co-founder Lynsey Penny. Image: Kim Cessford/DC Thomson

When the Dundee West End community fridge was fighting for survival, co-founder Lynsey Penny turned to the community for help.

She didn’t want to see the free-to-use facility that was helping locals and combatting climate change close down.

As part of her geography degree, Lynsey specialised in climate change. But she also studied mapping, leading her to work offshore and travel around the world for seven years.

But her job didn’t feel quite right. While it was an adventure, she wasn’t helping the planet.

A new role on the Gate Church Carbon Saving Project, therefore, turned out to be the perfect next step.

“I lived in Dundee already, but I didn’t know much about my local community because I was always away,” she says.

“When I saw that job, I was like ‘that’s what I’m meant to be doing.’

“I went for it and I’ve never looked back.”

Community fridge for all in the West End

One of the first projects Lynsey wanted to work on was a community fridge to save food from going to waste.

The Dundee West End community fridge opened on Perth Road in 2019 and has saved over 250 tonnes of food since.

The Dundee West End community fridge set up by Lynsey Penny
The West End community fridge by Miller’s Wynd car park. Image: Kim Cessford/DC Thomson

Having volunteered at a foodbank for eight years, Lynsey wanted to make it clear that the fridge is for everyone, not just people who struggle to afford food.

She recalls: “One of the first people I ever told about it, she burst into tears when I told her the format of it.

“She said something like that would really change things for her. They looked like they were fine – they had a mortgage and kids – but she really struggled.

“She said ‘I wouldn’t dare go to the food bank, because there are other people who deserve that much more than I do, or that’s how I feel. But I could go to something like that and feel nice about it.’

“Ever since then I thought, well that’s why we’re doing it.

“There’s a huge amount of people living in that grey area, when you know there’s other people worse off than you, but you still need the help, and it’s really hard to have to ask for that.”

‘Leave no one behind’

The community fridge brings in a wide range of people, some can’t afford a meal that day, some care about the climate and others just want to have a chat.

Earlier this year, Lynsey had a funding bid rejected, putting the community fridge in danger of closing. She launched a crowdfunder with the aim of raising £30,000 – the annual cost of running the fridge.

Taylor Flynn and Lynsey Penny holding Neighbourfood Dundee boxes.
Community fridge coordinator Taylor Flynn and project co-founder Lynsey Penny. Image: Kenny Smith/DC Thomson

Within a month the target was hit, a “heart-warming” sign that the community appreciates the work by Lynsey and her volunteers.

The fridge now offers the option to donate – either when visiting or monthly – for those that are able to. But remaining free and accessible to everyone is the top priority.

“We needed to make sure that whatever we do, we’re not leaving anyone behind,” says Lynsey.

“There’s this viewpoint that being sustainable costs a lot, and it can, if you buy an electric car and lots of stuff, which is not the point.

“We’re trying to show that being sustainable can save you a lot of money. It’s about buying less stuff, and being smarter about how we look after and repair those things.

“There are a lot of people living that way out of necessity, because they can’t afford to go and buy a new jacket, they’ll fix the jacket they’ve got.

Lynsey Penny outside the Dundee community fridge.
Lynsey wants to make sure no one gets left behind when fighting climate change. Image: Kim Cessford/DC Thomson

“It’s about celebrating that, and championing those people. Hopefully that makes them feel like they’ve got a lot to contribute, which they absolutely do.”

Social enterprise Transition Dundee

As the community fridge and Lynsey’s projects outgrew the church, she co-founded social enterprise Transition Dundee. It aims to be a community-led organisation that tackles social issues and climate change.

Lynsey now leads a team of five staff, and around 100 volunteers across three projects.

She says: “The volunteers are just some of the best people. We’re so incredibly lucky.

“We couldn’t do what we do if it wasn’t for them. Some of them really get the climate change part and what we’re trying to do.

They’re champions.”