Written by Edwive Seme
Almost 40% of food produce is thrown away by grocery stores yearly in the U.S.. It isn’t only grocery stores who waste food, consumers and fast food restaurants throw away overstocked food all the time. According to a 2012 study by the Natural Resources Defense Council, Americans throw away almost half of their food products, meaning that they waste approximately $165 billion annually. That sounds absurd, especially when there are less fortunate people who would love to have that gallon of milk that someone didn’t finish, or patties a restaurant didn’t use.
The Solidarity Fridge is a program/ idea that’s trying to tackle this issue. A small town called Galdakao in Spain has found a way to cut on food waste while helping other people in need in the process. For about 3 months, a group of members from the town’s volunteer association have set up a community fridge in the middle of the city where people can drop off unwanted food, and anyone can take what they need from the fridge. The fridge is surrounded by a wooden fence just to reassure that it’s not a thrown away item.
The project was initiated when the association started reflecting on the amount of food supermarkets throw out. They wanted to come up with a way to pass those thrown out products on to others in the community.
“We started to think that if even just one of their rubbish bins was replaced with a fridge, people could take advantage of these items.” said organizer Alvaro Saiz. They kept researching the idea to find out that Berlin had also started a similar program; As of November 2014, Germany had approximately 100 food sharing sites, with about 50 of those sites having refrigerators and the rest just being shelves. The association in Galdakao was inspired to continue this project throughout Spain and thus officially started the Solidarity Fridge program. Another city later on followed their steps and became the second Spanish city to take part in the solidarity fridge program.
Not everyone understands the idea, according to Saiz. Some citizens criticize its availability to just anyone taking out what they want. Saiz explained that the solidarity fridge isn’t quite about feeding everyone, but to decrease the amount of food being wasted. It really doesn’t matter who takes it nor what their social class is, because at the end of the day, it’s still better than letting it be thrown away.
It does seem like this would be a great idea to bring into the United States due to the level of poverty vs. how much food is wasted by supermarkets, grocery stores, restaurants, etc.; however, some important questions need to be raised: How would the idea translate to America? The demographics and laws aren’t quite the same, so would it go as smoothly? Would business owners just agree to giving out food for free, or would they fear making less money? Lastly, with cities like Miami and Bronx (for example) where the crime rate is quite high, and there is a large amount of homeless people, would such a project bring out greed and violence between the people trying to get ahold of the food? These are all factors that would affect the functionality of the project in the long run. But if the idea can be tailored for the U.S. and be more organized, it would be a great way to fight hunger and save food altogether.