• Matt Harrison

The fridge door is open

When you live rurally, cars, couches, even appliances resting on lawns aren't an uncommon sight outside. But next to churches?


The fridge installed outside the Anglican Church of the Good Shepherd in Wakefield at 693 Riverside Drive is easy to miss — in part because it is somewhat hidden inside its own little 'house'. Resembling a confessional or a guard's sentry 'box', the wooden, roofed structure contains a community refrigerator, which was ready for use as of Sunday, July 18.


The community fridge is an extension of the church's Food Pantry program, providing access to fresh food for anyone in need. Moreover, anyone can contribute food to it. What can go in? “Fresh fruits and vegetables; commercially prepared and packaged meals, before their 'best date'; commercially packaged meat, before its 'best date'; home-made jams, jellies, condiments, soups, meals and baking,” according to a recent Facebook post about the fridge.


I took a peek inside the fridge on Saturday, July 24 and saw bags of fresh, leafy greens, oranges, yogurt, milk, and fresh herbs.


I was immediately struck by two things. First, there were no dried goods — those too-typical 'donation' boxes piled high with Kraft dinner, canned soups, Hamburger Helper, cans of lima beans, brown beans, kidney beans — basically all the 'beans' that nobody likes to eat much and which tend to represent the bulk of 'donated' goods in food drives. I wonder if families in need really use these ‘beans’ or like-products, given that, for many, they aren’t familiar food products — something, perhaps, to keep in mind for future food drives.


Talk on Facebook around the community fridge suggests a 'dry rack' for dried goods may be forthcoming, but the fridge is aimed at providing fresh, healthier food.

The other thing I was struck by was the anonymity that comes with a community fridge. Growing up, my parents struggled some weeks to feed our family, and I know that my mother didn't relish the idea of having to ask for help or even pick up a box of food in person, though she did. The anonymity of the fridge helps remove that barrier, thereby encouraging people to use it more.


According to the organizers, there's been a good deal of interest in contributing to the fridge – evidenced by what I saw inside it on that Saturday – and, as word spreads, the fridge’s use is increasing. This use may increase even more in the coming weeks, months. The severe weather occurring in the West – both in Canada and the U.S. – is predicted to cause food shortages and raise prices — prices already high since the outbreak of the pandemic. I know my average food bill has risen by at least $50 per week. A recent conversation with a friend revolved around the idea that, even after things return to ‘normal’ once the pandemic subsides, food prices likely won’t go back down to pre-pandemic levels.


In a way, it would be great if no one had the need to use the fridge, ever — but given the looming reality for some, it's great to know that if the need does arrive, it's there.