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Food waste is a growing concern. According to a recent report by the United Nations Environmental Programme, consumers in industrialized countries waste as much as 222 million tons of food annually. To put it in perspective, that is almost equivalent to the net food production of sub-Saharan Africa. Now the residents of the small Spanish town of Galdakao have devised a simple solution to help reverse the trend — a community refrigerator!
Enclosed by a wooden fence, the frigorífico solidario or “solidarity fridge,” is situated in the center of the small town. Every morning, individuals, restaurants, and supermarkets stock it with excess cooked food, produce or drinks that are nearing their expiry date. The town's 29,000 residents or even those living in nearby areas can browse through the offerings and take whatever they need.
To ensure the food is safe to consume, raw fish, meat, eggs and packaged or canned goods past their expiry dates are prohibited. Also, though homemade leftovers are welcomed, donors are required to list all the ingredients, and the date it was prepared.
Though volunteers check the refrigerator daily to ensure the food has not expired, they have not had much to worry about. That's because since solidarity fridge was installed about two months ago, the donated food gets consumed the day it arrives.
Alvaro Saiz and other members of Galdakao's volunteer association which came up with the brilliant idea say they were inspired by similar initiatives undertaken by towns and cities all across Germany.
Though it took the team over a month to get all the necessary permits, it was well worth the effort. Saiz estimates that since the refrigerator was installed about two months ago, they have salvaged between 200 to 300 kg of perfectly good food that would have otherwise been thrown away. What's even more encouraging is that Galdakao's success is spurring other Spanish communities to start similar programs. Saiz says he has even received inquiries from a town in Bolivia!
Unfortunately, if a recent ruling in Yolo County, California is any indication, the "solidarity fridge" will not be making an appearance in the USA anytime soon. Earlier this year, a group of enterprising students at the University of California, Davis, set up a similar public refrigerator in their front yard to share food. It was a huge success until the county officials deemed it an "illegal" food facility and ordered it be removed. While this is certainly a setback, it is not the end of the world. Simple actions like consuming leftovers, buying just enough, and donating unused safe food to food banks, can make an impact in preventing unnecessary waste too. So be sure to do your part!
Resources: csmonitor.com, theguardian.com,zmescience.com