Community fridges, often set up by mutual aid groups, began to pop up during the COVID-19 pandemic, and though some have since closed, many have persisted. As a recent article in Grist points out, these fridges are not just tools for helping our neighbors and fighting food insecurity but also for helping our planet as well.
As the food insecurity crisis was exacerbated by the pandemic, community fridges provided people with a way to get food directly to those in need. According to Feeding America, 44 million people in the United States, including 13 million children, are food insecure.
The benefits of providing people with food are self-evident. The hidden benefit of these fridges, as Grist laid out, is that they save excess food from being sent to a landfill, helping to combat the overheating of our planet at the same time.
The Department of Agriculture reports that roughly one-third of the American food supply ends up as loss or waste. “When food is discarded, all inputs used in producing, processing, transporting, preparing, and storing discarded food are also wasted,” the organization writes. “The connection between food loss and waste and climate change is increasingly recognized as important.”
When food waste is shipped to a landfill, it releases heat-trapping gases as it breaks down, contributing to the overheating of our planet. According to a report from the Environmental Protection Agency, the yearly planet-overheating pollution from food waste is equivalent to that of 42 coal-fired power plants.
On average, an American household wastes $1,200 on unused food every year — and donating perfectly good food that you’re not going to get to before it goes bad is only one of the ways to lessen your own food waste.
That means that community fridges get food to people who need it and help to fight the overheating of our planet. (Of course, you want to make sure that whatever you donate isn’t just scraps or anything that would be insulting if someone served it to you.)
As Emily Broad Leib, director of the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic, told Grist, “There’s no solution to our climate problem that doesn’t also address food waste.”
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