Cloughmills community fridge is a first in Northern Ireland

By Sara Neill

image captionAs well as tackling food waste, the people behind the community fridge hope to promote healthier eating

It's the fridge that could help feed a community.

Northern Ireland's first sharing fridge has opened in Cloughmills.

Based at The Old Mill in the County Antrim village, it is open to all with businesses and residents able to share extra food or help themselves to food that would go to waste.

The idea behind the community fridge is simple - take what you need and leave what you don't need.

Patrick Frew, chair of Cloughmills Community Action Team, said it was not a food bank.

"It's for everyone," he said.

image captionMr Frew said it was an exciting project for residents to get involved in

"If you're going away on holidays you can bring along some of your food before you go and leave it with us. Rather than it going to the bin or landfill we give it out to other people.

"There is no referral service, it's come and see what we have and you can take it home with you.

"If you've got any spare food at home, in date and packaged, we can take it off your hands. Then see what we have that you can take home with you."

Use by date

The people behind the fridge estimate that each household in the village could be throwing away up to £470 of food every year - that's £282,000 annually for the whole area.

Although this is the first in Northern Ireland, there are solidarity or honesty fridges in Spain, Germany and other parts of the UK.

When a community fridge was set up in Swadlincote in England, with the help of charity Hubbub, it redistributed more than 2,000kg of food in the first six months.

"It can make a massive difference in communities," said Catherine Darragh from Hubbub.

"You can collect fresh food and give that out to people, and the community fridges have become places where people can share knowledge and learn more about their food and become healthier.

image captionThere are three fridges for perishable food as well as storage for tinned and dried foods

"The volunteer networks that are running the fridges have come together and it's helped to strengthen local communities."

As well as food that needs to be refrigerated, tins, cans, and dried food are welcome too. The most important thing is that they are fit to eat.

Declan Donnelly, from Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council, said they will be paying attention to use by dates.

"When you come to visit the fridge we've clearly communicated it has to be before the date has passed," he said. "If it's the day before or past its use by date, we can't take it unfortunately.

"We may still be able to compost it because there's quite a big compost site here, but the ultimate aim is that no food goes to landfill."

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