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One year and Fenland Community Fridge is going strong and helping families and the environment

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A project aimed at helping feed families and cut excess food going to landfill has celebrated its first anniversary.

Fenland Community Fridge was launched on March 1 last year thanks to a donation of £250 and a fridge from Peterborough Environment City Trust (PECT).

The cash bought helped to cover the project's initial costs and further funding from Hubbub also helped to get it up and running, albeit a year later than originally planned thanks to the pandemic.

A handful of volunteers launched the scheme but since then the team has gradually expanded to the current dedicated team of eight plus the co-ordinator.

Never too many doughnuts saying our driver volunteer Joe. (55254925)
Never too many doughnuts saying our driver volunteer Joe. (55254925)

The volunteers donate their time each week collecting the food, packing and serving it - making the project, which is based alongside Fenland Association for Community Transport (FACT) in Martin Avenue, March - a seven day a week operation.

Regular donations are received from Sainsbury's, Aldi, Lidl, Farm Foods, Smith’s Bakery, Greggs and Tesco.

But the team are always on the look out for more and so if you work for a business that has surplus food then they would love to hear from you – as long as it is still in its 'use by date', they can distribute it.

Even picking onions from the field to save them from being dug back in. (55254922)
Even picking onions from the field to save them from being dug back in. (55254922)

A very streamline system was put in place with the pandemic in mind. On arrival at the Community Fridge based at 5 Martin Avenue, March PE15 0AY visitors simply come to the front door, ring the bell and a volunteer will come to them.

Only a postcode is asked for and this is purely for statistics and maybe a requirement of any funding received. No other personal information is asked for. Everyone will receive a bag of bakery and a bag of vegetables but exact contents will depend on what surplus has been received – there is often a real surplus of bakery items - but you can never have too many doughnuts.

Over the year the hub has grown, from one fridge to what is now a fleet of four tall fridges and three tall freezers and two chest freezers to store all the surplus and floor to ceiling racking to store pantry items.

Not mushroom Left in our Hub these days - all surplus destined for landfill. (55254928)
Not mushroom Left in our Hub these days - all surplus destined for landfill. (55254928)

Even on Christmas Eve the team of volunteers were out collecting over 70 chilled turkeys plus vegetables all of which were stored and handed out at the next opening and the larger turkeys were gifted to local charities to make use of.

With generous donations they were able to hand out Christmas dinner box to over 100 households.

The whole ethos of a community fridge is to prevent food going to landfill. This is food that is left at the end of the day, hit its best before date or a damaged packet. The volunteers go through everything that comes into the hub and sort through to ensure its quality before it is bagged up for distribution.

Full vegetables. (55254931)
Full vegetables. (55254931)

To date an amazing 35 tonnes has been saved from landfill and supported nearly 4,500 households.

It is not means tested, no questions are asked and the whole community is encouraged to support it.

Hub co-ordinator Nicola Christy said:“This has been my dream for a number of years after seeing the enormous amount of food ending up in landfill and the number of households struggling to feed their families. It was important to me that this was available to the whole community and not a means tested project. With the dedication of the volunteers and the support of the community and funders this has all been possible.”

More surplus received and being sorted. (55254934)
More surplus received and being sorted. (55254934)

Donations are welcomed from the community for this very popular project, if you have an allotment could you grow an extra row of vegetables, do you have fruit trees that have an abundance of fruit – the team would welcome them. These donations just boost the surplus that they receive.

With the increase in demand and surplus they have become a victim of their success- which means it is no longer viable for volunteers to use their own cars, so a van is now needed and the charity is busy fundraising to purchase a suitable vehicle..

A fundraising pot for the users to pop any loose change in has so far raised just under £500 but a further £2,000 is still needed and so a GoFundme page has been set-up. It is called “March Community Fridge”.

The fridge is open Monday and Friday between 10am-12pm, all are welcome to go along and donations are also always welcome.

Nicola added: "A massive thank you to all our funders and supporters and the wonderful community that have supported this fantastic and much needed project."

If you can help this fantastic team support more in the community, please email Nicola Christy, hub co-ordinator hub@cotransport.org or call 01354 661234

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