A new community fridge in Reykjavík offers free food to anyone who wants it, as well as a place to donate perishables that might otherwise go to waste. Founded by immigrants Kamila Walijewska and Marco Pizzolato, the new ‘FREEdge,’ or Frískápur in Icelandic, is located in Andrými, a radical social centre in downtown Reykjavík, and has already fostered a community of 500 people in the less than three weeks it has been operational.
Taking action locally
Before the start of the pandemic, Kamila and Marco were involved with other food sustainability and community-building events at Andrými, such as free, weekly cooking nights. Those had to stop during lockdown but have since been replaced with a free food market every Friday, which also targets food waste reduction. But with so much food still going to waste, Kamila and Marco wanted to do more. “There is not much consciousness and awareness in our society,” they explained in an interview with Iceland Review. “We take food for granted. We don’t think about the whole food chain.”
“We all have some leftovers at home or some food we realize that we do not like,” they continued. “Now there is a place to go and share it with others. Shops and restaurants have leftover food at the end of the shift which could also be saved and donated to the freedge. There will always be someone who will appreciate it.”
The name Freedge comes from an international movement of the same name, which aims to reduce food waste and insecurity through the establishment of community fridges like the one that Kamila and Marco started in Reykjavík. They got the idea during a Hackathon that they attended in the Westfjords a few months ago.
“The goal of the event was to find solutions to water, energy, or food-related problems and to help the environment in Iceland. We focused on food. During that intense weekend, we were working on a project where a chef travelled around Iceland, cooking together with locals and boosting awareness about food waste.” Kamila and Marco were inspired, but this model of awareness-raising would require more money and dedicated effort than would be sustainable in the long run. So instead, “we decided to take action locally,” they said.
A common-sense project
The freedge is located outside on Andrými’s property, which means that anyone can come and pick up or donate food any time they want. Kamila and Marco just ask that the house rules and residents are respected, and that people keep the freedge clean. Recent offerings have included everything from fresh fruits and vegetables (broccoli, lettuce, mangos, avocados) to chocolate and pastries and frozen French fries. The freedge is checked every other day and accepts basically all fresh produce and packaged goods, provided that the latter are unopened.
“Homemade dishes are also welcome as long as they are labelled correctly (tape and pen are available) with date, donor and allergenics,” explain Kamila and Marco. “Foods that can represent a health risk if the cold chain is interrupted, like certain kinds of meat, fish, eggs or dairy are treated with suspicion and [if needed,] we inspect or remove them during our cleaning. We also check if the expiration date is ‘best before’ or ‘use by’ (there’s a big difference, and it’s very confusing for people).”
“We also feel like there is a lot of common sense behind this—it’s enough to use our senses to detect if something is either good to eat or not.”
A growing community
Although the freedge has only been operational for a few weeks, it has already been a huge success, both with members of the existing Andrými community and others. “People are messaging us, asking questions, getting involved in different ways,” say Kamila and Marco. “Word of mouth is really working. In one day, we got 200 new members on our FB group, and more are joining in every day. At the moment we have a community of over 500 people. It’s a big achievement.”
Looking ahead, Kamila and Marco believe that the project has the potential to expand considerably and are seeking to build relationships with businesses that are disposing of food that they can’t otherwise sell, but still could be eaten. “By donating their food,” they point out, these businesses “can say they are collaborating with us and therefore [foster] a better environmental image [for themselves].”
Kamila and Marco hope that more individuals will volunteer to take part in the project as it expands, helping to “pick up food from restaurants, supermarkets, or households and deliver it to the freedge.” They also hope to inspire more people to start freedges around Reykjavík and Iceland, which is, they point out, an “economically well-off country” that “has the luxury of good, healthy food available.” This “directly creates waste since the supply chain has to provide food also with margin for fluctuation of the request…Somehow more food [is] wasted because we have a tendency to buy more than we need.”
“We would like to encourage universities, offices, libraries, restaurants etc, to create their own freedges,” Kamila and Marco conclude. “We believe that in this way, we can all contribute to save food and impact our environment. It can also have a good social impact by boosting a bond within communities. We can all live healthier and happier lives.”
Find out more about the Freedge / Frískápur on Facebook, here.