Problem Addressed

Food wasteIn the UK,£13 billion worth of edible food is thrown away from our homes every year and a further £3 billion of food wasted by the hospitality and food service sector. This waste occurs in small increments at a local level, which often means that it can be hard to redistribute. 

Education – How can we provide householders with guidance on how they can reduce food waste within their own homes as well as guidance on how to make healthy, affordable food choices?

Solution Overview

For the last six years Hubbub’s food work has focused on cutting food waste and improving access to sustainable, healthy and affordable food. The Community Fridge offers a hyper local solution for businesses to donate food within its use-by date which they are no longer willing or able to sell. Community Fridges also provide an outlet for garden and allotment gluts, or householders jetting off on holiday. In 2020, Community Fridges reduced 2,000 tonnes of food surplus. 

Community Fridges are spaces where anyone can access free, quality food that would otherwise go to waste, connect with others, learn about the environmental impact of food, and share knowledge and skills. Each fridge is managed by a legally registered organization and housed in a publicly accessible space. Their activities are determined by a local coordinator to meet the needs of diverse local populations. 

In 2016, Hubbub first trialled the Community Fridge (CF) concept to understand how CFs could address the dual need to increase food skills and reduce waste. The first fridge successfully made a dent in local household and business waste, and bought the community together around healthy food and food skills.  Hubbub also saw the majority of surplus coming from business was fruit, veg and salad items past their ‘best before’ date. Fresh fruit and vegetable items are the first things to go when households are financially stretched. 

The CFN 

In 2017, Hubbub launched the Community Fridge Network to support a growing number of groups interested in replicating the CF model to:

  • Establish safe and efficient fridges  
  • Connect with other groups and share experiences and best practice 
  • Measure and share the impact  
  • Nurture and develop an inclusive and empowering culture around the fridge  


Since establishing the CFN, Hubbub has enabled 140 CFs to establish within the UK. Each fridge redistributes one to six tonnes of food per month (and more during the Covid-19 response), a total in excess of 2,000 tonnes of food surplus, which is the equivalent of over 4 million meals and 2355T of C02.  In 2020, each fridge supported an average of 1365 unique visitors per year. In 2020 Community fridge visitors said that their local community fridge had: 

  • helped them to reduce food waste at home 48% (further reducing household carbon footprints – not factored into the 2355T CO2 saving) 
  • helped them to feed their family 85% 
  • helped them to eat more fruit and veg 56% (further reducing household carbon footprints – not factored into the 2355T CO2 saving) 
  • increased trust locally 32% 
  • In the process, we have saved 300 fridge and freezer units from landfill. 

 There has been a marked interest in CFs over the last year:  

  • In the first 18 months of the CFN we supported an average of 2.3 community fridges to establish each month.  
  • In the following period, the average monthly number of fridges supported to launch by the CFN had risen to 2.6. Monthly EOIs averaged around 12. 
  • In the six months between Sept 2020 and March 2021, EOIs rose to 25 per month, and the CFN supported 6.7 fridges to launch each month, reflecting a 160% growth in the number of fridges opening since the previous period.  

By the end of 2021, there will be 200+ community fridges within the UK alone, meaning annual CO2 savings of over 4711T. Hubbub are now supporting networks to establish oversees and see that both the climate and social impacts of the CFs have huge potential to scale over the coming years.

Minimal financial investment is needed to establish a Community Fridge under Hubbub’s Community Fridge Network. Hubbub have a relationship with appliance manufacturer Liebherr who offer graded stock to all members which otherwise would have ended up in landfill. 

Overheads for the CFs include electricity (some CFs operate on solar!), water and cleaning materials. Signage and print materials would be additional costs. 

Using donated fridges, set up costs could be as low as £300, with ongoing operating costs in the region of £120. Some fridges are manned by volunteers, others by paid staff. In this case human resource is the biggest part of the budget. 

Case Study

Wolverton Community Fridge – was launched in July 2017 (one of the first in the UK) and in its first two years has diverted more than 48 tonnes of food from the bin to the people of Milton Keynes. Due to its popularity, in 2018 and 2019 independent community groups launched new community fridges at Daisychain Children’s Centre in West Bletchley, Woughton Community Council in Coffee Hall, Netherfield Vineyard Church and The Little Bookshop Cafe in Great Linford. Milton Keynes now has the highest density of community fridges per person in the country.  In June 2020, Hubbub trialed Food Connect in Milton Keynes – a zero-emissions service to redistribute surplus food. Launched during the COVID-19 lockdown, the service redistributed more than 2,000 food parcels to vulnerable households and saved over 1,700 food miles. 

 Aberystwyth Community Fridge (Aber Food Surplus ECO Food Sharing Hub)  - Aber Food Surplus hosts a community fridge in their ‘ECO food sharing hub’. The community fridge complements their activities at the hub – community café, food education and workshops as well as food growing. Many people in their community have outdoor space, but don’t have the skills, confidence, or spare funds to start to develop those spaces to grow their own food. They experience both financial and food insecurity, which discourages them from investing in a currently uncertain future. Their focus is to support the CF with food growing and encourage individuals to grow their own food to create a more resilient Aberystwyth. 

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