Community fridge on campus brings mutual aid
Fridges in Riddell, FNU
Community fridges have become much more popular recently and have garnered lots of local support in Regina, both from residents and businesses. Currently there are three fridges in Regina: one in North Central, one in Cathedral, and one outside Carmichael Outreach in the Heritage neighbourhood, but there will soon be five with the University of Regina Student’s Union installing two new ones, one in Riddell Centre and one in the First Nations University building. More students are food insecure than people realize and the fridges are designed to help accommodate them, according to Cassidy Daskalchuk, the URSU Food Security Coordinator.
The need for community fridges became more apparent to URSU after having “URSU Cares” events and having leftover food. URSU Cares is a bi-weekly pantry that runs on Wednesday and Thursday, where students can show up and get food free of charge. These events see about 150 students each day.
Daskalchuk said, “I know that this number is just going to grow as a university reopens.” Before the on-campus fridge existed Daskalchuk would drive around Regina and donate the leftover food to different community fridges in the city. Having a fridge on campus means that students whose schedules don’t permit them to visit the URSU Cares pantry will still have access to food.
Daskalchuk also pointed out that there are no grocery stores near the campus and the fridges will help address that problem. She expanded on this by saying, “we thought that we might as well have a way for students to have accessible and affordable food on campus that they can access whenever they need it, it can be completely stigma free. Then we just thought a fridge would be a really good way to just build a stronger community on campus and raise awareness about food insecurity.”
Daskalchuk is hopeful there will be more studies done on food insecurity among students, but said “the general consensus is that about two out of five students are food insecure, which is about 39 per cent.”
As for the cause of food insecurity, Daskalchuk believes it’s relatively straightforward: that a mix of high tuition rates and housing costs are to blame. She went on to explain “[students] need to worry about where you’re going to sleep and you need to worry about getting your education, so food tends to come last, but what a lot of people don’t realize is food is exactly what you need to succeed academically and also in your personal life, so I think that by providing students with food and taking the stress off of where they’re going to get the next meal, we’re going to help create a stronger campus community.”
The Riddell Centre fridge will be located by the URSU front desk and be up and running by September. The FNU fridge will be operational in October, [SB1] although an exact location has yet to be determined.
Anyone is welcome to donate to the fridges and there needs to be a constant flow of donations according to Daskalchuk. They feel it is important to keep the fridge stocked at all times so students do not get discouraged if they opened it and there is no food inside. The fridges largely rely on donations from other people, but there are certain grocery stores in the Regina area that help such as Fresh-Co, Save-On-Foods, and the Regina Food Bank.
URSU is asking people not to donate any kind of alcohol, homemade meals (unless they were cooked in a food safe establishment), moldy food, or anything that is bent.
Almost anything else can be donated. However, the donations need to be clearly dated so people know when an item was deposited in the fridge. Items should also have labels indicating whether they are halal, kosher, or other specific dietary need, and they must be placed in the correct section of the fridge.
-dried foods, with a stable shelf life
-jarred and canned foods (sealed and unopened)
-meals cooked in an unregistered home or kitchen
-food past best before or expiry dates
-damaged food or opened packaging
-recalled food items
-raw milk cheeses/unpasteurized milk
Daskalchuk spoke about the stigma of food insecurity and how this project can hopefully end it by having a fridge out in the open. She said “I think having the community fridge in the open will hopefully help reduce stigma on campus, but some students do need these services. There’s no shame in not having enough money to buy food and hopefully this also raises awareness just to the Uof R organization in general, that this is something that our students are struggling with.”
Although there are grocery stores donating to the fridges, like Fresh-co, Daskalchuk is hopeful that there will be more support from other stores and restaurants in the future, and she indicated that getting corporate support is something she is working on. To expand, she stated “I think [corporate donors] are going to be one of the biggest helps and one of the biggest donors towards our community fridge/”. She added that “At least we could create a pretty consistent schedule and we can make sure that our fridge is never empty.”
For the most part, Daskalchuk said that most of the responses they have received from grocery stores are from the smaller and more local stores and not the large companies.
Daskalchuk said that she knows it is not always the most convenient thing in the world for people to donate, but the URSU team can help figure something out for people who may not be able to drop off food directly. She said, “they can always reach out to the Students Union, or to myself directly and we can definitely do a food pickup or workout some type of way that’s easier for them to donate. So, don’t let it deter you, that it is in the university because we can definitely work around it.”