In the Spanish town of Galdakao, a lone refrigerator on the sidewalk operates as if by magic. The hungry can open its doors to find fresh, wholesome food, and take what they like for free. When they return the next day, they find the supply replenished. Residents are calling it the "Solidarity Fridge," where the real magic is in the generosity of donors quietly leaving their extra food for others to enjoy.
As NPR reports, everyone is welcome to give and to take with no strings attached. It’s an innovative solution to the problem of some having too much to eat and others having too little, with the added bonus of building community along the way.
Alvaro Saiz, the creative thinker behind Spain’s first community fridge, was inspired to find a way to cut down on food waste after seeing footage of his country's poor—their situations exacerbated by the recent economic crisis—having to dumpster dive for sustenance. He was also inspired by a German food-sharing website and, leaning on his experience running a local food bank, he made a proposal to Galdakao Mayor Ibon Uribe that the politician called “both crazy and brilliant.”
The town deliberated for a month before approving an initial budget of 5000 euros (approximately $5700) to purchase a fridge and keep it running in a public space, as well as wisely granting the fridge “a special independent legal status” to avoid liability for any potential food-borne illnesses. They instituted a simple set of rules: no raw meat, fish, or eggs; no expired goods; and all homemade items must be labeled with dates and thrown away after four days. Beyond that, anything goes.
Despite the boon the fridge has proven for those in need, who might be able to assemble a full meal from the assorted offerings, Saiz wants to emphasize that the Solidarity Fridge is not necessarily a charity initiative. The project’s primary initiative is to fight waste, which can be accomplished whether the fridge’s contents go to feed a pauper or a pop star. A mere seven weeks after the fridge’s debut, Saiz estimates that the city might have saved around 600 lbs of perfectly good food from going to waste.
Galdakao’s community fridge has proven its value to the town, but it may have an even greater impact in inspiring other cities to invest in their own versions. The Spanish town of Murcia now has a fridge, and hopefully, it’s only a matter of time before the community fridge goes global.