With a fresh look and a new location, the campus community fridge is expanding to meet the growing needs of the University of Guelph community.
On the main floor of the University Centre, beside Subway, the fridge now stands alongside a newly built pantry decorated with a bright, colourful mural painted by Victoria Abballe, with the motto, “take what you need, leave what you can.”
“We drew inspiration from other community fridges on other campuses,” says Noorain Mamdani, co-president of the U of G chapter of MealCare, a national organization that helps divert food waste and reduce food insecurity.
“We thought this would be a great way to bring attention to the fridge and we wanted to separate it from the cafeteria space to let people know this is a community fridge available to anyone in need,” she adds.
MealCare’s Guelph chapter launched in 2019, working to provide the U of G and local community with access to fresh, healthy food. As food prices and the cost of living continue to rise, resources like the community fridge and the Guelph Student Food Bank – currently at capacity – have become vital.
The demand for nutritional meals brings a lot of traffic to the fridge, Mamdani says, one reason for the expansion – to meet the growing need. The team was able to secure funding support this year from the Student Life Enhancement Fund, a U of G initiative that supports non-academic projects that enhance the student experience.
“Anything we put into the fridge is gone within a day,” says Fynn De Vuono-Fraser, operations lead. “We have a much larger space now, so we’d like to see it always fully stocked.”
The 25-person MealCare student volunteer team picks up weekly donations and the outreach team connects with the community to drive awareness and maintain support. “We’re always looking for more restaurant donors,” De Vuono-Fraser says.
U of G community fridge seeks local restaurant donors
The fridge receives donations from Tim Hortons and Owl of Minerva, a local Korean restaurant that prepares up to 15 ready-made meals per week. The team welcomes donations from any public health-certified kitchens as well as non-perishable goods like canned foods, granola bars and crackers.
The fridge allows for donations of fresh produce, often stocked with leftovers from the campus community market. And, this year the fridge will receive all donations from Trick or Eat, when U of G student volunteers will go door-to-door Oct. 31 to request non-perishable donations.
The team keeps a log to help plan for what to keep in the fridge, track how often it is used and note what items are most popular. They check the temperature daily, keep things clean and get rid of any spoiled food.
The community fridge is a more accessible way for students who might be food insecure, Mamdani says. There is no mandatory registration, or requirements to meet any criteria.
“Our whole purpose is to have an accessible resource on campus,” she says. “The idea is that access to food is a human right, it shouldn’t be a privilege.”