Peterborough Green UP
New Canadians Centre
Sparq Retail
The community fridge located at 225 Dublin Street. Photo by Rishabh Joshi.

Building a Community That Feeds Itself: PTBO's 1st Community Fridge

Written by
Emi Habel
and
and
October 25, 2021

The community fridge collective, along with this article, acknowledge that the Dublin community fridge is built on traditional Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg territory. 

I walk into a cafeteria on campus and see a line of students who paid upwards of $4,700 to eat there, waiting to get their “Naan pizza” (interesting combo, Gzowski) and their Monster drink. Thankfully, many of us are here courtesy of student loans (and maybe grants, if we’re broke), so at least we can pay off our Naan pizza along with our tuition debts over the next decade or so. Still, research conducted by Anne-Sylvie Dasné, 159 out of 331 Trent University students (48%) reported being food insecure. I couldn’t find any published statistics on general food insecurity in students in Peterborough, but if I had to guess from my own experience and that of many of my peers, a higher percentage of students experience food insecurity than we think. A community report conducted by Trent noted that the majority of students experiencing food insecurity are BIPOC, LGBTQ2+, disabled, parent, or international students. 

Building a Community That Feeds Itself: PTBO's 1st Community Fridge
The community fridge located at 225 Dublin Street. Photo by Rishabh Joshi.

Without even discussing the barriers to accessing food security programs (spoiler: I’m still going to discuss them), such as transportation issues that make it hard to get to locations where food programs are held; restrictions in the frequency of one’s participation in the programs; internalized shame or denial; and policing of programs and supports, it is undeniable that many people fall through the cracks of our society’s attempts at food insecurity relief. Many initiatives, such as the Nourish Project here in Nogojiwanong-Peterborough, do a great job at broadening the access to affordable food. One project in a city brimming with food insecurity, however, is unfortunately not enough.

Wouldn’t it be so great if we had another way for people to access food, no strings attached? 

Well, I love to be the bearer of good news.

Community fridges have been popping up in various neighbourhoods globally, from Canada and the United States, to Germany, India, Sweden, and many other nations. They are free sources of food based on the principles of mutual aid, where people are free to leave donations such as sealed and unexpired food (think of fresh, whole foods like bread and fruit, but also easy-to-prepare or ready-to-eat items—not all of us have stoves!), or meals that were prepared in a commercial kitchen. Community fridges and its sister concept, community pantries, also welcome items like PPE, toiletries, sealed tampons and pads, and in eligible locations, unexpired naloxone/Narcan kits. And the best part is you’re free to take what you need, whenever, without judgement.

Nogojiwanong-Peterborough welcomed its first community fridge and pantry earlier this September at 225 Dublin street, a few steps away from the downtown core and accessible by bus routes 2, 4, 6, 9, and 11/11A. As the collective says on their Instagram: “Take what you need, leave what you can, no questions asked, 24/7.”

The community fridge at 225 Dublin Street. Photo by Rishabh Joshi.


I asked Sam (she/they) and Sunny (they/them) from the Nogojiwanong-Peterborough collective to tell me more about this radical initiative, and I got to hear all about the looking-out-for-our-own philosophy that’s fuelling the Dublin Street community fridge.

“Think of a community fridge as a free little library, but with food instead of books,” Sam explained when I asked them to describe the idea of a community fridge to someone who had never heard of it before.

The up and running Dublin Street fridge runs on the principles of food accessibility, dignity, and community. When discussing what it was like to bring such an idea to Nogojiwanong-Peterborough, Sunny touched on a critical aspect of being a post-secondary student, one I believe many of us tend to forget: 

“I didn’t want to be just another student coming in to gentrify their neighbourhood and be the reason their rent goes up and they can’t afford it anymore, you know?” Sunny told me, referring to the ridiculous increase in rent prices in Nogojiwanong-Peterborough that have been skyrocketing over the last few years. Unfortunately, post-secondary students have also unwittingly added to the housing demands of a small town and shot market prices higher than the folks over at the Otonabee College smoke shack after midterms.

“As soon as I moved to the neighbourhood near Dublin Street…all kinds of people and students were saying “Oh, you know, [that area] is a sketchy neighbourhood, lots of weird sh*t that goes down here sometimes” but I can’t cast judgement, and neither should I cast judgement anyway, yeah? ...personally meeting all those people and getting to know them over these two and a half years, I’ve developed more positive relationships with my neighbours here than in the suburbs of Toronto, with their perfect image of society and their two and a half kids and cottage homes,” Sunny said, and we all laughed, because Toronto wealth just hits different.

“You don’t have to worry about somebody coming in, taking everything out [of the fridge] one day, and then us deciding “Oh, okay, we don’t want to do this anymore.” No, we’ll keep getting it filled up as a community.” Sunny explained. And fill it up they have, as the fridge has seen steady restocks under the watchful eyes of the collective and its volunteers. As for the food that doesn’t get used (“ingredient”-type items don’t usually do so hot, for reasons mentioned above), the collective picks it up and transforms it into delicious meals that they then deliver to the neighbouring rooming houses. Sunny and Sam also mentioned that they order meals from Food Not Bombs (FNB); a great idea when many folks don’t have an address to deliver to. 

Photo by Rishabh Joshi.


“There’s an idea of the type of people who donate to those places [food banks, food programs, etc.] and there’s an idea of who uses those places,” Sunny went on. “I think it just inherently feels more dignified to be able to say, “I can have my needs met by my neighbours and my community,” explaining that, ultimately, they just want to see a community that can feed itself.

The concept of building a community that feeds itself is not new, but certainly an under-executed solution to food insecurity. Providing the tools necessary for a community to feed itself sustainably breathes fresh air into the swamp of broken political promises and our government’s avaricious priorities.

Capitalism and neoliberalism aside, though, I asked Sam and Sunny exactly how students could get involved in this initiative, and they gave lots of options:

Thank you Sam and Sunny for taking the time to chat with me about the Dublin Street community fridge! Find out more about the community fridge at: @communityfridge.ptbo on Instagram.

Donation Guidelines on the community fridge. Photo by Rishabh Joshi.

Peterborough Green UP
New Canadians Centre
Sparq Retail
Written By
Sponsored
Peterborough Green UP
New Canadians Centre
Sparq Retail
Hmmmm...
It looks like there's nothing else from this author. Perhaps you, the reader, could
pick up the pen and begin where they left off.

Heading 1

Heading 2

Heading 3

Heading 4

Heading 5
Caption text

What’s a Rich Text element?

The rich text element allows you to create and format headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, images, and video all in one place instead of having to add and format them individually. Just double-click and easily create content.

Static and dynamic content editing

A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!

How to customize formatting for each rich text

"Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system."
  • adfasdfa
  • asdfasdfasd
  • asfdasdf
  • asdfasdf

Heading 1

Heading 2

Heading 3

Heading 4

Heading 5
Caption text

What’s a Rich Text element?

The rich text element allows you to create and format headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, images, and video all in one place instead of having to add and format them individually. Just double-click and easily create content.

Static and dynamic content editing

A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!

How to customize formatting for each rich text

"Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system."
  • adfasdfa
  • asdfasdfasd
  • asfdasdf
  • asdfasdf