Advertisement
Activism

How a mission to prevent food waste ended up feeding hundreds of thousands of Brits

A community fridge aimed at tackling food waste is now making sure hundreds of people a week don’t go hungry

Helen Innes didn’t set up a community fridge to tackle food poverty. She wanted to fight food waste, and provide a space for people to socialise around food. 

“I just hate food waste,” Innes said. “I just hate the thought of food going in the bin.” 

But now, five years on, more and more people come to her who couldn’t afford food otherwise. Her community fridge, operating out of The Old Bath House & Community Centre in Milton Keynes, used to get busy at the end of the month, when pay was being stretched. With the cost of living crisis meaning there’s little hope of stretching things out, it’s busy all the time. 

“We regularly get new visitors who are in a fairly different position to those not wanting to waste food and to do the right thing. It is about them needing food,” she said. 

Up to 100 people come to each of the two weekly sessions. Innes describes it as a “buzzing atmosphere”. 

But behind it is a growing level of need – with people turning not just to foodbanks but to other means of help, like community fridges.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Subscribe to The Big Issue

From just £3 per week

Take a print or digital subscription to The Big Issue and provide a critical lifeline to our work.

Innes’s fridge is one of 280 community fridges run by Hubbub. A fridge might be based in a church or a community centre, and is typically manned by a part time leader and a couple of volunteers.

One of Hubbub’s volunteers. Image: Hubbub

They’re not foodbanks. Instead, they were set up to make sure perfectly good food finds its way onto plates instead of into bins. But the situation around the country is the same as in Milton Keynes – the network is becoming increasingly vital for those struggling with the cost of living

Aoife Allen, a director of Hubbub, estimates that the network got 800,000 visits from the public in 2021, and stopped the equivalent of 7.5 million meals from going to waste. 

“Frankly the fridges are meeting a lot of need in the community. Our preference is that everybody has enough income to meet their food needs adequately and with dignity,” Allen said.  

“We know that’s not the case with the current cost of living crisis, and the benefits situation in the UK.” 

Advertisement

Bigger Issues need bigger solutions

Big Issue Group is creating new solutions through enterprise to unlock opportunities for the 14.5 million people living in poverty to earn, learn and thrive. Big Issue Group brings together our media and investment initiatives as well as a diverse and pioneering range of new solutions, all of which aim to dismantle poverty by creating opportunity. Learn how you can change lives today.

Recommended for you

Read All
'Don't forget Afghanistan': The kite festival with a message
Afghanistan

'Don't forget Afghanistan': The kite festival with a message

Huge energy bill hike leaves one of Britain’s biggest food banks facing closure by Christmas
Food banks

Huge energy bill hike leaves one of Britain’s biggest food banks facing closure by Christmas

Policing Extinction Rebellion protests cost the Met over £10million
Protest

Policing Extinction Rebellion protests cost the Met over £10million

Met Police slammed for secrecy over cost of failed Sarah Everard vigil appeals
Met Police

Met Police slammed for secrecy over cost of failed Sarah Everard vigil appeals

Most Popular

Read All
Oil giants Shell and BP have been handed £700m of taxpayer cash despite bumper profits
1.

Oil giants Shell and BP have been handed £700m of taxpayer cash despite bumper profits

What are the risks of Don't Pay UK? We asked a leading lawyer
2.

What are the risks of Don't Pay UK? We asked a leading lawyer

How broken is the UK's public transport? I spent all day on buses to find out
3.

How broken is the UK's public transport? I spent all day on buses to find out

Sadiq Khan's Right to Buy-back scheme leads to return of 1,500 council homes
4.

Sadiq Khan's Right to Buy-back scheme leads to return of 1,500 council homes

Keep up to date with the Big Issue. The leading voice on life, politics, culture and social activism direct to your inbox.