Ash Vale Community Fridge –  Our journey so far! 

(by Alex Sanderson and Carla Morson)

What a super morning we had on 21st June 2023 celebrating this new project!  We are delighted to declare the new Ash Vale Community Fridge officially open! This is a superb way to make sure that no good food goes to waste, and we hope all our friends and neighbours enjoy using it.  Ever wondered what goes in to a project like this? Here’s how the story unfolded…

One fine autumn day in 2022, our amazing Ash Villages Food Parcels Team, Chapel Project Team, and Chapel Kids toddler group were delighted to visit Ash Vale Co-op to celebrate the amazing support, delicious Fareshare food donations and vital community funding received from the Co-Op community team, and our 2 local stores in Ash and Ash Vale. We got chatting to Claire about food waste and mentioned wanting to have a fridge or shelving of some sort outside, so we could offer food to the community for more than just a few hours a week when the food parcels team are in the building. Amazingly, Claire had a contact, and knew of a Co-op / Hubbub Community Fridge network grant funding round that was closing in just a few days – fantastic!

With no time to waste, we sprang into action. First we got the go-ahead from The Chapel management team and St Mary’s, and started the application forms. With some super support from Patrick, who kindly handles the money side of things for our Food Parcels Project for us, we got the right documents submitted along with our Community Fridge application just in time. And then… Joy of joys! We were chosen to join the scheme, and received the funding in early 2023. With that, the search was on for a fridge.. that would fit in a shed.. that would fit in the space.. that would fit within budget… not as easy as it sounds, but we got there.

You can’t run a fridge on fresh air, so the next job was the electrics! Fortunately, Sacha from Sassy does it electrical was overseeing the Chapel’s electrical checks in the spring. Her team did a super job, so we invited them back to help us with an electrical supply for the community fridge. Their help and advice was invaluable and they did the job brilliantly. We even have an extra socket at the ready just in case we need heat or light in the winter.

Where there’s food there’s admin… If you’ve ever seen a Hubbub community fridge before, you will know that they are super helpful, providing signage, instructions, templates and pointers for every eventuality. We were very fortunate to have the amazing Viv on our team who kindly trawled through hundreds of pages of advice and instructions and made sure we didn’t miss anything important. Between us we completed the risk assessments, registrations, signage and other ‘setting things up’ tasks that go on behind the scenes. We even had Carla taking time out of a very busy schedule chasing up the insurance for us to get it all ready in time!

While the ladies busied themselves with the paperwork… the gents took on the practical challenges: We owe a big THANK YOU to Luke and his team who cleared away the weeds to make a clear space for us as part of their garden clean-up, and to Jeff who measured up and hand made the base for the shed and reinforced the floor, and to Steve and Alun who put up the shed, strengthened it, and bolted the Fridge down safely to make sure it stays where it is! We even have a lovely shelf, custom made, from a re-purposed kitchen top, so we can have swap-shop items and non-fridge items available in the community shed too.

The final piece of the jigsaw is of course the food to go in the fridge. This is where our food parcels team comes in – they will be the first regular contributors. These local heroes collect donated food from Co-op, Bookers and Tesco in the evenings twice a week. They use everything they can to go into the food parcels for local families, but sometimes they do receive things that will be out of date by the morning and can’t be frozen, or sometimes more of something than can be used in the parcels. They always try to make sure nothing is wasted, but it can be very time consuming making lots of individual phone calls. Now of course, having the community fridge is perfect – we can all simply pop the surplus in the fridge, snap a photo and tell our Facebook followers what’s up for grabs.

And then we launched! It’s hard to believe that all the hard graft has finally paid off and we can proudly say that the community fridge is officially open! The Co-op team are so amazing, they even came to celebrate the launch with us, bringing fresh bread and bananas to offer out to our first Community Fridge heroes! Rev Neil said a few words, and he, Carla and Claire cut the ribbon. Alex brought along some fizz and we all raised a glass (alcohol free of course!) to the project and all involved.

What does the future hold? It’s up to you! We hope that everyone locally will get into the habit of using the Ash Vale Community Fridge. Give what you can, take what you need, keep good food out of the bin… and please remember to fill in the sheet in the red folder so we can tell you how much food we have saved! We would love to grow this project, with more evening volunteers for more food collections, to put food in the fridge every night. We would love more volunteers to join the rota to check the fridges and help us to keep them shiny and clean. We will need some help raising funds for the electric bill once the initial grant funds run out, if anyone fancies becoming a regular donor or doing a sponsored challenge, give us a call. Feedback is always welcomed too of course, in person or you can phone or email. If you’d like to come and talk to us, Monday Chapel Café is 9am-12:00 in term time. Alex is there each week during the school term with Andy ready to make you a cuppa and give you the tour. Why not pop in and say hello?

Please join us in thanking these amazing local heroes, and see you soon at the fridge!

Alex & Carla

Project Manager’s phone: 07730 609446

Location:The Chapel Project, (former methodist church) Wharf Rd, Ash Vale, GU12 5AY

Our hall of fame… so far! Send us your photos of visiting, using and supporting the Community Fridge! Photo of the red folder – remember to log your food in and out! Patrick doing the electrics…. Steve and Alun putting up the shed… Jeff who built the base and reinfoced it, and has been part of the food parcels team for 3 years! ….Photos of the Launch Day with our friends from Co-Op….. Photos of the fridge in action…. Photos of the Food Parcels Crew who add items to the fridge… Photo of Rosie and Paul who collect donations in the evenings…. Send us your photos to add to the gallery! Love to everyone! xxx