Halifax has a smattering of food banks across the city. They’re well-funded, usually have plenty of food, and help hundreds—if not thousands—of Nova Scotians every year.
But the current model has some gaps. Food banks are only open certain hours and not everyone feels comfortable going to one because of the deeply ingrained societal stigma of food insecurity, especially in a small city where you may get recognized.
Enter: Halifax’s first community fridge.
“Getting access to food in Halifax is very difficult,“ says one of the three Dalhousie students behind the fridge project. “For a lot of food banks you have to have valid government ID, you have to provide all this information, proof of address, your income.”
The community fridge requires none of that. “The idea of the community fridge is that it’s anonymous,” the organizer says. “And it’s available 24 hours a day. If you want to just get food without telling a soul, the community fridge is there.”
The project revolves around the concept of mutual aid: People helping each other. “I had seen them in other cities, and I assumed there would be something similar in Halifax,” the founding organizer says. “But I quickly realized there was not.”
The group is remaining anonymous because of fear of retribution from the city, and because they don’t want to take all the credit for something that will be a community project. The three main organizers are all Dalhousie students, but the fridge is for anyone. They first dreamt up the project a few months ago, and now more than 10 people have joined the core group that will help stock, clean and maintain the fridge.
“Eventually the goal is that there doesn’t really need to be organizers,” the organizer says. “Eventually the community will provide, and the community will take.” But until that happens, partnerships with other local food banks will help stock these shelves.
Two functioning refrigerators were donated pretty quickly, and one remains in storage until the project can expand to a second location. The task then became finding a willing, central and accessible location to host it.
When the organizers reached out to Glitter Bean Cafe, a worker-owned co-operative on Spring Garden Road, the partnership made sense to everyone and was voted on at the co-op’s most recent board meeting.
“It was honestly probably one of the easiest parts of this whole project,” says the organizer about the collaboration. “Having Glitter Bean simply agree to host this fridge.”
The fridge organizer who spoke with The Coast has experience working in other food banks, so all food safety concerns will be addressed. Products like meats, open food, leftovers and homemade items won’t be able to be accepted, even with the best of intents.
“We’re going to need many volunteers to maintain the health and safety of the fridge,” they say. “Anything that goes in the fridge has to be packaged, has to be labelled, has to have an expiry, all that stuff, that’s just not a risk that we’re going to take.”
The fridge will mainly focus on fresh produce, eggs and dairy. But it will also include a pantry side where dry goods and non-perishables can be kept, as well as other items people may need like menstrual products and toiletries.
The hutch that will store the fridge is being built by a local carpenter, but the community fridge is hoping to raise $2,000 through a Gofundme to pay for the cost of materials, the cost of paying Glitter Bean’s excess electricity due to the fridge, and anything else.
“We know there will be unforeseeable costs, like maintenance because the fridge is outside and minus 20 degree weather. So we kind of want to be prepared in case something happens,” says the organizer.
The group is also currently seeking artists who are willing to donate their time to decorate the fridge so it can be seen from a distance. The fridge is expected to be built over the holiday season, and up and running in January 2022.