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Dundee West End Community Fridge: The Community Fridge Freshening Up Dundee



Exterior shot of the community fridge in Dundee Credits: Transition Dundee


A community fridge makes a big impact on Dundee

"Half of us are satisfied, half of us in need. Love's bountiful in us, tarnished by our greed" sang the Isley Brothers in their 1976 song Harvest For The World.

The song decries the world for its apparent greed; noting seemingly perennial issues such as world hunger and war which unfortunately continue into 2023. The fact that 40% of the world's food is going to waste doesn't do the planet's reputation any favours. Listening to the song’s lyrics, it’d be easy to call it a timeless classic which can be applied across various generations.

Written in the 1970s, the song cannot mention an important development in the mission against food waste and hunger; community fridges.

Dundee West End Community Fridge

Launched in 2019, the Dundee West End Community Fridge is just one of a number of community fridges found around the UK.

A community fridge being where surplus food is collected from supermarkets and other local food businesses, and redistributed to the community.

And fortunately, despite rejection from the Scottish Government for an application of funding, Dundee West End will continue to serve its community, hopefully for years to come after a successful public fundraising campaign.

The premise of this fridge being simple; give if you can, take what you need, and pay what you feel.

Well stocked fridges of food ready to be shared with the community, Credits: Transition Dundee


“We saw such amazing community spirit”



Referencing social impact, Lynsey Penny, co-founder of the community fridge commented: "Community members often tell us how much of an impact it [the fridge] has on them".

Penny noted positive effects such as people being educated about the importance of waste reduction, learning new recipes from their fridge takings, and chatting with other community members in the queue; as well the impact of reducing food waste.

Referencing a time during the COVID-19 lockdowns, where the fridge remained open due to being classed as an essential service, Penny described seeing an "amazing community spirit", with people offering "surplus food, time and much more".

Whilst the cost for those who use it comes to £0, the cost to run it is substantially different. Annually, according to a figure reported by the Dundee Courier, it costs £30,000 to keep the fridge going. Costs including rent, utilities, insurance, admin costs, maintenance and training, as well as the salary of their full-time Community Fridge Coordinator.

A stigma around the use of such fridges provides another challenge, Penny noted how people would visit, but not quite grasp how the fridge worked and then, under a misconception of these fridges being like food banks say "Oh but I won't take anything because someone else needs it more than I do."

The mission to reduce food waste guides this project, and Penny pointed out "if everyone said they will leave it for someone else, we'd still be left with all the food going to waste"

Recent events such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the cost of living crisis have had major impacts on how the project is able to run.

Opening just 9 months before the pandemic, the fridge originally operated on a basis of volunteers sporadically popping in to replenish stock in the cupboards and fridges. But the effects of the pandemic, where social distancing, mask wearing, and frequent handwashing were encouraged, led to a shift in operations towards fridges being staffed.
Since the pandemic's easing, a survey found users preferred this system, favouring an ability to chat with people and sense that it prevents people from taking too much.

However, Penny noted "We are finding funding ever harder to come by", with the cost of living crisis seeing utility bills go "through the roof", whilst funding pots shrink and demand for community projects grow.

Transition Dundee, who run the fridge have sought to diversify projects, launching The Wardrobe @112 Nethergate, a charity shop claimed by Penny to provide "free and very cheap clothing" as well as various workshops and events, and ensuring the fridge isn't solely relying on grant funds.


According to Hubbub, there exist over 300 community fridges across the UK. Each who will need voluntary assistance, financial support, and donations to preserve their ability to have positive impacts on their community.


Outlining ways to support community fridges, Penny said: "The best thing people can do is pop down to see us". People can provide time as volunteers, donate food and clothes, and donate via a donation box on the premises or on their website. A Facebook group informs people when the fridge has a large amount of food needing to be distributed to the community and not to waste.


So to bring the lyrics of Harvest For The World back into the spotlight, "Gather everyone, gather all together, overlooking none", and support the community fridges of this country in any way you can.


To support Dundee West End's fridge visit https://www.transitiondundee.com/donate,or https://www.hubbub.org.uk/the-community-fridge to see community fridges across the UK.


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