More community fridges opening across P.E.I. to fight hunger

·3 min read
Workers lift the fridge into the tiny home which is outside Gifts from the Heart headquarters near the Charlottetown Airport.  (Laura Meader/CBC - image credit)
Workers lift the fridge into the tiny home which is outside Gifts from the Heart headquarters near the Charlottetown Airport. (Laura Meader/CBC - image credit)

The rising costs of food have led to a rising need for community fridges on Prince Edward Island.

P.E.I.'s first community fridge opened last year in Charlottetown and now several more are planned through out P.E.I.  Although every group runs things differently, the concept is designed to be less formal than a food bank — people from the community stock the fridges with groceries, and anyone is free to take what they need.

The charity Gifts from the Heart plans to have three community fridges in tiny home buildings, with a staff person or volunteer inside to help give out food.

The town of Alberton and city of Summerside also have plans for community fridges.

Laura Meader/CBC
Laura Meader/CBC

Gifts from the Heart founder Betty Begg-Brooks was dancing with excitement as the first tiny home building for the first fridge was delivered on Friday.

"We want to make sure that everybody gets what they need," said Begg-Brooks.

"It's just a struggle for everybody."

Several companies volunteered time and labour and the provincial government provided $10,000 for Gifts from the Heart's community fridges. The money comes from a larger community food security fund which is helping with other projects and fridges.

Laura Meader/CBC
Laura Meader/CBC

"We serve these people with love and kindness. No one will be turned away," said Begg-Brooks.

The first community fridge will be at the Gifts from the Heart headquarters on Maple Hill Avenue in Charlottetown while other fridges will be in the West Royalty area of Charlottetown, and Stratford.

Community fridge model easier on pride

Mike MacDonald, the executive director of the Upper Room Food Bank in Charlottetown, says not everyone can get to a food bank or a soup kitchen.

It's definitely bittersweet, but it's also not surprising to me because food insecurity has just been such a big issue. — Sandra Sunil

"The community fridges play an important role for quite a few people," said MacDonald.

MacDonald said there has been a 50-per-cent increase in the number of people coming to the food bank this summer so he knows the need is there. This August, he said 918 families came in for a basket of food.

"Unfortunately the need is increasing," MacDonald said.

He said community fridges are also easier on people's pride and are more accessible.

"It's extremely hard for people to come through the doors and ask for help," he said, pointing out those in need can access a community fridge more privately.

Community fridge founder happy to see expansion

The first community fridge was started by Sandra Sunil and Samel Sunil, as part of their non profit group, 4Love4Care.

Sandra Sunil said it's great to see others taking the idea to other communities.

"This resource removed all barriers and reduced the stigmatization of food aid," she, adding it's a "no questions asked" space.

The fridge gets filled three times a day and Sunil estimated that as much as $1,000 worth of food goes into the fridge each day.

She said it's nice to see other fridges are being set up.

"It's definitely bittersweet, but it's also not surprising to me because food insecurity has just been such a big issue on the Island for so many years," she said.