A free fridge in Chilliwack sparks community

In front of a little blue house on Edwards Street, there sits a little blue fridge. Meet the people behind it.

By Grace Kennedy | June 29, 2021 |11:02 pm

In front of a little blue house on Edwards Street, there sits a little blue fridge. On some days it is full of freezies, pop, and water bottles. On other days it is full of eggs and produce. On all days, it is free to whoever needs a helping hand.

“It’s a project that a lot of people are picking up as a way to fill the gap for food insecurity and reduce food waste,” Quin Lawrence, who prefers to go by Q, said about the fridge. The Chilliwack Free Fridge is located at 8870 Edwards St. in Chilliwack, and is run by Q and fellow organizer Fenrir. The pair moved to Chilliwack from Vancouver in 2020, and had wanted to start a community fridge for some time.

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“Both of us have experience with poverty and homelessness, whether it’s street-based or couch-surfing, and we know how much of a toll food insecurity can take on people. We also realized coming here that Chilliwack turns away from looking at unhoused populations,” Q said. “When we moved out here, this entire time we had been talking about doing this Free Fridge, and we just had to get to a place of stability after our move. That’s where we’re at now.”

The pair started the fridge in late May, and within a few days people were coming to use its services. “The fridge gets cleared every day or two,” Q said. “It’s been amazing that it’s been so well-received so quickly.”

During this week’s heat wave, Q said the fridge has been going through a lot of water, freezies, and cold fruit—particularly in the evening. “Most people who would be using the fridge for managing the heat are laying low, trying to stay in shaded areas, which our street definitely isn’t,” they said.

Food for the fridge is provided by Q and Fenrir—the pair were given a Costco membership to help fund the project—but also by neighbours, who often bring fresh produce. During the heat wave, a number of community members have brought flats of water (there are 7 flats ready to be put in the fridge at this point) and frozen goods. In addition to the fridge, there is also a selection of zines (self-published booklets or magazines), as well as a small pantry for things like granola bars, cereal, diapers, baby formula, and menstrual products.

“We know that it is a need. It is something that people don’t have access to when they’re living on the streets, in particular, but even for people in social housing,” Q said about the menstrual products. “I know when I lived in social housing that’s been really hard because budgeting is just so much tighter. You end up making all these deals with yourself on what you’re buying this month, what you’re buying next month. And that puts people at health risk. As a community resource, if that’s something people want to bring by or they’re able to bring by, there is a need for it.”

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The pair operate social media channels for the Chilliwack Free Fridge, letting people know when the fridge is restocked and what is needed. The fridge has a list of rules online for those wanting to donate food and supplies, mostly to ensure nothing spoils, but also to make sure the fridge follows local bylaws.

Right now, the fridge is most in need of frozen items. Because the fridge has a small freezer box, it can’t hold very much, but Q and Fenrir are able to store donations to restock the fridge as it empties. Q also encouraged people to fill coolers with ice and gatorade and put them outside their own homes. “That way people have places to go where they already are. We don’t want people walking around in this heat,” they said. Some communities have already started: the pair recently shared a list of community coolers in Abbotsford to help people get through the heat wave.

For the future, Q wants the Chilliwack Free Fridge to be a place where people can have their needs met, but also a place where community groups who may not ordinarily interact can come together.

“We’re at this position of serving both families and unhoused people, people in transient poverty,” they said. “I hope these kind of disparate groups can find a place of commonality, of grabbing some pop from the fridge, grabbing some zucchini—we’re going to have a lot of zucchini… [We want to be] just a place where needs can be met and connections can grow, and community networks, safety, and support can grow as well.”

Grace Kennedy

Reporter at Fraser Valley Current

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