Originally published on Sustainablog
Have you seen a Little Free Library? These simple boxes on posts contain a relatively radical idea: books aren’t just possessions, but objects meant to be shared. It’s caught on: according to the concept’s official website, there are now over 30,000 Little Free Libraries around the world.
Could this idea work with food? That is, would people make use of a freely and easily available storage place for excess food? A “Little Free Fridge,” if you will? The people and local government in Galdakao are testing it out with their “Solidarity Fridge.” The town has set up a refrigerator in a central location, and residents and restaurants are welcome to share their leftovers with their neighbors, or to help themselves to the food left inside. It seems to be working: volunteer Javier Goikoetxea tells NPR that most donations to the fridge are gone within hours.
Does that mean there are lots of hungry people in Galdakao? Not necessarily: the region has half the unemployment rate of the rest of the country, and those without have access to a healthy welfare state. The town’s mayor, Ibon Uribe, chalks this up to the area’s relationship with food: Basques love to cook well and eat well, and throwing good food away seems almost sinful. The Solidarity Fridge plays right into that cultural desire to share good food rather than dispose of it.
Furthermore, the founders of the Solidarity Fridge don’t want it to be something that only serves the poor: they note on their website that they don’t want people to feel self-conscious about using the food in the fridge by worrying about such labels. The purpose, rather, involves bringing whole communities together, regardless of socioeconomic status, to share in their common abundance.
Like the Little Free Library, though, there have been those who want to regulate the concept out of existence. Similar efforts in the US, for instance, have generally been shut down by health departments. The Galdakao Solidarity Fridge does prohibit uncooked meat, fish, and eggs for health reasons; otherwise, they count on the community’s good sense and neighborliness to keep bad food out.
What a great concept! The founders want to develop a network of Solidarity Fridges – do you think something like this might work in your community? Have online efforts taken off at all around you? Share your thoughts with us…
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