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New Community Fridge battles food insecurity one fresh food item at a time (4 photos)

Road To Zero Waste has placed a free, accessible-to-all fridge at Onward Willow to share donated fruit and vegetables

It's a simple endevour, but one with great significance for those that deal with food insecurity.

On Saturday the Onward Willow Community Centre opened its Community Fridge, literally a fridge that will be stocked with fresh fruit and vegetables accessible for the public to take when needed.

Susie Stauffer, the community support worker at Onward Willow, said they already give out 80 to 100 emergency food hampers a month and the fridge will be a great addition to their efforts because it will expand what they can offer.

"We struggle to get fresh produce so this will be a great thing for us. And to have that capacity, that space, will be a big help because a lot of the folks in this neighbourhood have accessibility issues and they can't always get to the food bank or some of the things that the SEED program offers," Stauffer said.

Stauffer said the fact the Community Fridge has no barriers is also a big help, in that there are no restrictions on who can use it and no registration is necessary. All they ask is that you only take what you need.

The community fridge is supplied and will be stocked by Road To Zero Waste, a Toronto non-profit started by husband and wife team Laylo Atakhodjaeva and Shabeeb Hasan in 2017.

They started the program as a way to make use of some of the billions of dollars Canada wastes in food each year.

"I started this project when I heard how much food waste was happening in Canada," Atakhodjaeva said. "I said 'I have to do something about it.'

"Initially we were distributing food and clothing items to homeless shelters across the GTA, but I understood that wasn't enough."

It started with one fridge in a Toronto neighbourhood and will soon be five fridges in the Toronto area, including Guelph. Their hope is to spread the concept throughout Canada and beyond.

Road To Zero Waste will be stocking the fridge with food donated by grocery stores, restaurants and farmers. It is hoped as word spreads that local donations will keep the fridge stocked.

"Working together - donors, volunteers and communities - we can do so much good in Canada. We can help in two ways: the environment and helping people who are struggling with food. We can give them this awesome, nutritious food," Atakhodjaeva said.

Guelph MP Lloyd Longfield was on hand for the official opening of the Community Fridge on Saturday.

"I'm so glad you found Guelph," Longfield said to the organizers, adding that it will fit nicely with some of the other food programs in the city aimed at food insecurity. "This is going to make an enormous difference to people."

The fridge is open to anyone in Guelph and Stauffer hopes eventually other community groups will be able to have one in their areas.

Hours the Community Fridge is accessible is during Onward Willow's hours, Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Thursday by appointment.

Onward Willow Community Centre is located at 15 Willow Road, unite 45, on the northwest corner of Willow Road and Edinburgh Road.