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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

TFN is published by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh, EH3 6BB. The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation. Registration number SC003558.

Community fridges can’t replace foodbanks

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Concept is growing in popularity in Scotland

Community fridges can’t replace the vital role of foodbanks despite their popularity increasing, a leading charity has claimed.

The fridges, which are located in local shops, offer free food to people on benefits or low incomes.

First introduced in England, the concept is growing in popularity with numerous examples now operating in Scotland.

They are either hosted by the shop owner or by third sector groups with customers donating food directly to the fridge or funding it with spare change.

However the Trussell Trust, the country’s biggest foodbank charity, said the fridges are not as effective as food banks.

Tony Graham, the Trussell Trust's director in Scotland said: "Community fridges are a great idea, and can sit alongside food banks in the patchwork of emergency food aid which communities can provide when people hit crisis point," he says.

"However, we do not agree that they can provide a replacement for food banks, which offer signposting, a listening ear, and increasingly, other services which can help tackle the underlying causes of poverty.

"Community fridges cannot always offer the food which would sustain people through a crisis, as they rely on people donating what they do not need."

Rekz Afzal, who runs a community fridge from his Paisley shop, says the initiative takes a lot of pressure off the food banks.

He says the concept has the potential to "shut down the food banks".

"People in the community, no matter who they are, if they find themselves struggling, are able to take advantage of this fridge," he says.

My vision is to close the food banks, full stop - Rekz Afzal

"It will get them by until they are feeling more secure."

Afzal asks for proof that people who use the fridge are receiving help from the government before allowing them to take two items of food per day.

"People feel more comfortable about going to their local shop than a food bank. They might not want to make their situation known," he says.

"One of the main problems is access hours. The food bank in Paisley is only open three days a week - what do people do the other days?

"There are a lot more access hours to a community fridge than food banks. These shops are always open.

"My vision is to close the food banks, full stop. If food banks are only open for limited hours it's not serving their purpose properly."

He says he'll keep running his community fridge, which has between 20 and 30 users, regardless of whether the idea takes off nationwide.

"Nowadays there's universal credit where people have to wait six weeks before they get anything - how do they survive for those six weeks?" he says.

"I feel there are a lot of gaps and community shops could fill those gaps.”