Community Fridges Offer Free Food To The Neighbourhood

If you’ve walked down College street in the Brockton Village neighbourhood recently, you may have noticed two mini fridges sitting out on the sidewalk. One has a sign on it reading “Free Food”, the other, “Take what you need. Leave what you don’t.”

The fridges are part of a community-run initiative led by Ten Restaurant’s executive chef Julian Bentivegna and community organizer Jalil Bokhari. They started the initiative to help reduce food insecurity by allowing community members to donate and pick up fresh food as needed, no shame or questions asked.

“It’s been really great to see the community involvement. We just got the fridges set up out front, but the community fills them up with produce,” said Bentivegna, chef-owner of Ten Restaurant in an article by The Chronicle Herald.

Bentivegna donates surplus food from his restaurant that would typically be thrown out at the end of the day.

“We’re extending our privileges and access to fresh food towards those who don’t have those privileges. It’s also wealth sharing, community building and essentially trying to directly do something about food insecurity and food disparity,” said Bokhari in the article by The Chronicle Herald.

Food insecurity was a crisis before COVID-19 hit and has rapidly worsened since the lockdown. The number of new clients accessing food banks in Toronto has increased by 200%, according to a report led by the Daily Bread Food Bank.

Pre-pandemic, one in four survey respondents reported not eating for an entire day because they did not have enough money for food. And now, the frequency of respondents going a full day without eating almost every month increased from 56 per cent to 67 per cent, according to the report.

"The number of respondents moderately or severely stressed or anxious about having enough food to feed their household has tripled during COVID-19," notes the report.

Globally, the pandemic could push up to 132 million people into hunger by the end of 2020, according to a new report from the United Nations.

"As progress in fighting hunger stalls, the COVID-19 pandemic is intensifying the vulnerabilities and inadequacies of global food systems," UNICEF said in a statement.

Haven Toronto has remained open every single day since the pandemic began, providing essential services to clients including breakfast and lunch meals, the demand for which has seen a staggering increase of 250% over the past few months. It wouldn't have been possible to keep up with the demand for services without the support from the community.

So far, the mini fridges can be found at two locations in the West end but the two friends hope to expand the service to other neighbourhoods where food insecurity is an issue, including Regent Park and Parkdale.

“More and more people are realizing that food is a basic human right,” said Bentivegna in an article by Toronto Life. “It’s easy to get pessimistic about the state of the world, but it’s been so uplifting to see how many people want to make a difference, even if it’s a small change.”


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