Dartmouth community fridge project reports huge demand since May launch

·3 min read
Lisa Scott says there is such a need for the new community fridge in Dartmouth, N.S., that it is sometimes filled several times a day. (Brian MacKay/CBC - image credit)
Lisa Scott says there is such a need for the new community fridge in Dartmouth, N.S., that it is sometimes filled several times a day. (Brian MacKay/CBC - image credit)

One month after launching a project to provide food for people struggling with the cost of living in Dartmouth, N.S., volunteers are reporting a big need for the service.

With food prices up nearly 10 per cent in the past year, in addition to rising costs for almost everything else, many people are turning to the community fridge for extra help.

"We have young people, senior citizens, families with children, unhoused, underemployed. You name it, people have been accessing the fridge," said Lisa Scott, one of the project volunteers.

The community fridge was set up on the grounds of Christ Church close to the downtown in May.

It is stocked with donated eggs, milk, fruit and vegetables.

Brian MacKay/CBC
Brian MacKay/CBC

The fridge is enclosed in a shelter that includes a pantry. It has staples like canned goods, such as tuna, pasta and cereals, as well as things like peanut butter, jam and even hygiene products.

Scott said volunteers have been surprised the community fridge has been so busy.

"The need has been demonstrated by the fridge being emptied and filled several times a day in some cases," she said, adding that hundreds of pounds of food has been picked up every week in the past month.

Volunteers report people dropping by as often as every 10 minutes at certain times of the day, either to pick up or donate food. Some of those using the service would not normally access traditional food banks, Scott said.

"Most people using this fridge are having to use the financial resources they have to meet other needs and the first thing to go is maybe choosing nutritious food," she said.

The project does not require any sign up and is open to everyone as a way to remove any stigma that may come with registering for food programs.

Brian MacKay/CBC
Brian MacKay/CBC

Scott said other communities, including some in rural Nova Scotia, have been in contact with her as they consider a similar model.

She said the fact so many people need the service is sobering.

"I just really feel for individuals that are every day having to work through this need," said Scott.

People around Dartmouth step up to help

Volunteers clean the fridge and pantry every day, and check expiration dates.

One woman who was picking up food told CBC news the donations are vital for her as most of the money she is currently making is going toward her rent. She did not want to be identified.

Brian White, who regularly visits the fridge to pick up things like canned soups, said he's grateful it's there.

"Right now my need is great because I'm out of money," he said. "I think it's wonderful. It's helping me and when I get paid I'm going to help."

About 30 people volunteer with the project and there are regular donors keeping it going.

"I hope it's a relief for some people knowing there will be stuff here and it's awesome to know you're helping other people," said Ellie Boyd, who dropped off donations with her mom, Joanne, on Wednesday.

Businesses helping out

A growing number of local businesses are also helping out.

Some are holding fundraisers as a way to contribute, while others are donating prepared meals.

"This is a way I can use my resources to help feed everybody," said Kathy Jollimore, the owner and head chef of Side Hustle snack bar in Dartmouth.

The restaurant has partnered with the farm Abundant Acres, which provides produce it does not sell at the market to the project.

"We take that produce and make it into meals or drop off produce itself to the community fridge," Jollimore said. "It's great because we're also reducing food waste."

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