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'Within 12 hours everything will be gone': community fridges and pantries pop-up in Halifax

Since the pandemic began, several community fridges and free food pantries have popped up around Halifax, N.S.

Walking down Spring Garden Road, you may notice the Halifax Community Fridge, located behind the Glitter Bean Cafe.

The goal is to help those who are hungry access free food without any barriers. To organizers and volunteers, it appears the need is greater than they ever imagined.

“We’ll fully stock the pantry and the fridge and within 12 hours everything will be gone," said one of the co-founders and volunteers with the Halifax Community Fridge.

The organization wants to remain anonymous, citing concerns the city might take action against them, and to avoid any credit for the food program.

It works like a little free library. You can take some food items and leave some items for somebody else.

There are no barriers, so the food is easy to access. That was important for the anonymous community food group.

“We wanted to make a food resource that addresses the need for people to have a dignified way to access food," said the anonymous volunteer. "Even though a structure on the side of the road with a pantry isn’t still the most dignifying way to address food insecurity.”

Mike Robarts lives in the neighborhood and happened to be walking by and saw some volunteers stocking food items into the fridge.

He now uses the community fridge a couple of times a week.

“Sometimes I bring some stuff and drop it off, and other times I just pick up a few things to have for the day and to add to whatever I’ve got at home," said Robarts. "It's a great service and a great location. I don't think a lot of people know about it."

Midway through the pandemic, a group of volunteers in the community of Fairview set up a free food pantry outside the Fairview Resource Centre.

David Aalders, a volunteer with the Fairview Food Pantry, said there’s a great need in the community and said the idea is a spinoff from the free little libraries you see in some neighborhoods.

“We knew the need was there and we really, we already knew too that most people who are food insecure, don’t access a food bank," said Aalders. "Whether it’s because of stigma or whether it’s because they are working but can’t afford to cover all the costs.”

Feed Nova Scotia said the number of new users who rely on the food bank has nearly doubled when they compare the number of people using the food bank in August 2021 versus February 2022.

"People are feeling the additional pressures from of all kinds of factors that we are seeing in our community, said Karen Theriault with Feed Nova Scotia. “From the increased cost of housing to the increased cost of food to the increased cost of fuel. All of those extra pressure points are just sort of pushing people over that edge, where they maybe could squeak by before.”

Nicole Mosher lives and grew up in Fairview, and is a volunteer with the free food pantry, she said it's a program that could be expanded as the need in the community grows.

“Since COVID started, I don’t think there’s a time when I’ve gone to the grocery store where almost everything I buy isn’t a dollar more than it used to be," said Mosher. "I've lived it myself and I know with gas prices going up, there's going to a lot more people out there trying to stretch their money at the end of the month.”

Both the Halifax Community Fridge and Fairview Food Pantry rely on food donations and financial contributions from the community, and they both agree that’s not enough to solve the problem.

“We need policy change that addresses root issues like poverty," said the anonymous volunteer. "Because this (food fridge) shouldn’t have to exist." Top Stories

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