The new community fridge is officially open outside the Newmarket Public Library after months of collaboration.
The fridge, which is a partnership between the Newmarket Food Pantry and Town of Newmarket, as well as other groups, launched today, June 21. It provides a space in central Newmarket for residents in need to pick up fresh, refrigerated food and other pantry items.
Adrian Bain, executive director of the food pantry, said there were talks of a community fridge after they began popping up in other parts of the world. In January, he presented a deputation at council calling for a fridge in Newmarket and received support from the mayor and councillors.
“The next few months after that, the ball was rolling, the communication was happening,” he said.
Newmarket Public Library was decided as the site for the fridge. The design was created and students from two local high schools were involved in making it happen.
"I think it was so instrumental to have a youth component and community connection and collaboration piece,” Bain said.
Students at Sir William Mulock Secondary School were given the wood and created the frame of the shed that houses the fridge and then Grade 12 arts students from Huron Heights Secondary School designed and painted colourful food-inspired images on the sides.
Once the fridge was built and installed, it needed to be filled. John van Teunenbroek, owner of No Frills at Yonge Street and Davis Drive, offered to stock it for the launch and committed to re-filling it every Tuesday moving forward.
"John’s been a longtime supporter of the Newmarket Food Pantry. Basically, whenever we need something, it’s a phone call today,” Bain said.
On top of the fridge, there are also high-tech temperature-controlled cubbies built into the shed, which provide a place for Newmarket Food Pantry clients to pick up a hot meal, prepared at the pantry's new kitchen.
Staff at the pantry will load the meal into the cubbie and send a QR code to the client via email or text. The clients will then go to the fridge when they are able and scan their QR code. The designated cubby will automatically open and they will be able to pick up their meal.
This part of the community fridge was donated by Jenn McLachlan, owner of Cachet Supper Club. This is one of the many partners who played a role in the fridge, as Bain said, "It’s by the community, for the community."
Councillor Bob Kwapis, who has been involved from the beginning of the project, said it is a testament to the Newmarket community.
“It basically just shows what community is all about. It’s not just one or two business partners supporting, this is a collaboration,” he said. “Everyone brings it together as a community.”
Kwapis said he looks forward to seeing the fridge flourish as a way of addressing food insecurity in town.
“We recognize that we have this need in this century, this day and age. This need that unfortunately is still there. We need to make sure that we don’t have our neighbours hungry in our community. We’re doing everything that we can with these types of initiatives in order to support these people,” he said.
That need is very strong in Newmarket, said Vesna Mitchell. She works with the pantry and will be overseeing the operations of the fridge.
“For some parents in our community, they have to make a decision between paying their bills or feeding their family,” she said.
Part of the problem, according to Mitchell, is in food waste. She said all across the country food that could otherwise help feed people in need is thrown out. She encouraged people to bring their extras to the fridge instead.
“Those boxes of granola bars and fish crackers that your children decided they don’t want anymore, bring them here. The bag of apples that are sitting on the counter for a week because you brought the wrong ones, bring them here," Mitchell said. "If you have a garden in the back and you just had a good year and you have too much lettuce, bring it here and know that you are not only saving the planet but you’re taking that one little step to creating a better world for everyone."
The fridge is open and operating on a take what you need, leave what you can model.