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A growing network of community fridges in Northern Ireland

What is a Community Fridge?

A community fridge is a publicly accessible fridge, for the use of the whole community. Any food that is good for at least one more day but will not be used, can be donated to a community fridge.

That food can then be taken by anyone that wants to use it. Very often the fridge is supplemented by a community larder for non-refrigerated items. Food is donated by individuals (uncooked food only), food businesses and supermarkets. The collection, storage, hygiene and rotation of items are managed by volunteers.

Community fridges are good examples of practical action against climate change, as food waste is responsible for around 8 - 10% of total greenhouse gas emissions making it a significant contributor to global warming.

Where did the idea come from?

Community fridges can be traced back to a group in Germany called Foodsharing. In 2012, the group began putting leftover food that would otherwise be thrown out into refrigerators around Berlin in an effort to combat food waste. Then in 2015 in Galdakao, a small town on the outskirts of Bilbao in the Basque Country a ‘Solidarity Fridge’ emerged. In the UK, the first Community Fridge was set up in Frome in 2016, with support from Edventure Frome Community Interest Company and Frome Town Council.

Since then, the idea has spread rapidly and today there are over 250 community fridge projects in the UK, with over 150 officially opened (as of May 2021). Combined, this network of fridges produces the equivalent of 9 million meals per year and redistributes 4,000 tonnes of food per year (Source: Community Fridge Network).

What issues do community fridges address?

Common to ‘food sharing’, ‘solidarity fridges’, or ‘community fridges’ is the aim of reducing food waste. They are not to be confused with food banks where food is distributed via vouchers that are means tested. Community fridges are about diverting as much good food from landfill as possible. They are not means tested and are therefore open to the entire community.

They are an important source of food, particularly fresh food, for low-income households. The latest figures from the UN estimate that 8.4 million people in the UK experience some form of food insecurity, so the presence of a community fridge helps alleviate hunger.

The Community Fridge Network's Impact Report 2019-2021 reports higher levels of trust in communities with community fridges. Other reported benefits include reducing food waste, reducing food poverty and hunger, and helping to teach people healthier eating habits.

The Community Fridge Network in NI

Northern Ireland has seen a rise in the number of community fridges in recent years, due to the support of local authorities and local communities.

Northern Ireland’s first sharing fridge opened in 2017 in Cloughmills with the support of the Cloughmills Community Action Team and Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council. Before the introduction of the fridge, an estimated £470 of food waste was thrown away per household every year, equivalent to £282,000 for the entire area.

The latest data shows that the Cloughmills community fridge is diverting 1 tonne of food waste from landfill each month. In Cloughmills, local residents also loan large pots for batch cooking and organise veggie cooking sessions (soups and curries) using produce from the fridge.

In 2018 the second community fridge opened in Causeway Coast and Glens, at the Glenshane Care Centre in Dungiven, in parternship with charity Hubbub UK.

The most recent community fridge in Northern Ireland was opened in June 2021 in Carrickfergus at the Eden Allotment Gardens. The project was funded through the Department of Communities (DfC) Covid-19 Food Partnership Fund and delivered by Mid and East Antrim Borough Council’s Parks and Open Spaces team.

More than 20 volunteers are involved and locals say it has generated a strong sense of community spirit. The fridge receives eight donations per week from Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Marks and Spencer and Hendersons. There are also zero-mile items that come directly from the allotments on-site. 

The impact of this community fridge since its opening just 6 months ago has been remarkable.

Key Data June 2021 October 2021
Collected Food (Kg) 611.0  10413.0
Meals Equivalent 1455.0  24793.0
CO2 Savings (Kg) 1955.2 33322.0

A second fridge in Mid and East Antrim Borough will be inaugurated in December 2021 in Islandmagee.

More to come…

A new project is due to launch in January 2022 called “Creggan Connected”, an exciting new food project at Creggan Country Park in Derry / Londonderry.  The project was one of only 300 applicants to secure funding from the National Lottery Community Fund and IKEA's 'Places called Home' programme.  

The project idea aims to bring people together, promote community-based services and reduce food waste. The project will include:

  • A Community Fridge & Freezer that can be filled by residents, community groups, businesses, cafes or schools.
  • A daily contents list sent out on social media, for local people to collect what they need.
  • Volunteers trained in food hygiene and customer service to manage the community fridge and freezer. 
  • A wheelchair friendly picnic bench and buddy bench for children that will provide free tea and coffee along with comfortable seating for people to rest after they walk through the park.
  • Leaflets and posters of local services will be on display to make residents aware of the initiative
  • Information on topics ranging from money worries to healthy eating to support local people. 
  • Seven students from St Joseph's Boys School are helping transform a former shop into a community hub using warm and welcoming interiors.


By the end of 2021, there will be 200+ community fridges in the UK alone, saving a staggering 4,711 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year. Community Fridges are about much more than diverting food waste and tackling climate change, however. 

They are about social interaction and wellbeing, particularly over lockdown when people enjoyed visiting their local fridge as a means of recreation. They are places where recipes are also distributed for popular food items, and people learn positive attitudes towards food and food waste in general. They are spaces that do not carry judgement. Where anyone, irrespective of their background, can access free, good quality food that would otherwise go to waste. They connect with others, learn about the environmental impact of food, and share their own knowledge and skills with others in their community.