Littlehampton Community Fridge celebrates fifth birthday and makes urgent plea for venue so it can carry on

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As Littlehampton Community Fridge celebrates its fifth birthday, the best gift volunteers could receive is a new venue.

The hard-working team is desperate to keep the project running in Littlehampton town centre but volunteers have only until the end of the year at their current base.

The community fridge was launched with a trial at Littlehampton Library on July 8, 2019, and the team went back to its roots on Monday, handing out free cake and drinks outside the library to celebrate the anniversary.

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Founder Sarah Renfrey set it up because she was horrified by the amount of food going to waste - billions of pounds worth across the UK - and the fact businesses had few solutions for giving away items that were past their sell by date but within their use by date.

Littlehampton Community Fridge offering free cakes and drinks to celebrate the fifth birthday. Picture: Elaine Hammond/ SussexWorldLittlehampton Community Fridge offering free cakes and drinks to celebrate the fifth birthday. Picture: Elaine Hammond/ SussexWorld
Littlehampton Community Fridge offering free cakes and drinks to celebrate the fifth birthday. Picture: Elaine Hammond/ SussexWorld

The project had to be moved to St James the Great Church hall, in East Ham Road, in April 2020, at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, and has been there ever since, changing and expanding the offering of the past four years.

Volunteer Billy Blanchard-Cooper said: "St James the Great Church has been amazing since the library unfortunately had to close at the start of the covid pandemic and have been more than supportive of the project but, unfortunately, the building and church are set to close permanently.

"So far, we have checked out all the obvious commercial and abandoned properties and have not come up with anything suitable. We are also in contact with Arun and Littlehampton District Council, who are trying to assist."

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A public plea has been put out in the hopes of finding a suitable location in the centre of the town. Empty shops have been suggested but these are not large enough.

How it all began: Littlehampton Community Fridge founder Sarah Ranfrey and mayor Tracey Baker with supporters at Littlehampton Library celebrating the launch in October 2019. Picture: Kate Shemilt ks190582-1How it all began: Littlehampton Community Fridge founder Sarah Ranfrey and mayor Tracey Baker with supporters at Littlehampton Library celebrating the launch in October 2019. Picture: Kate Shemilt ks190582-1
How it all began: Littlehampton Community Fridge founder Sarah Ranfrey and mayor Tracey Baker with supporters at Littlehampton Library celebrating the launch in October 2019. Picture: Kate Shemilt ks190582-1

Billy explained: "There are certain things we need which means that many places are not suitable. Our collections start in the morning and continue until 11pm every day, including the weekend, with more than 100 collections, and as most surplus food is available in the evenings, independent access all day, every day, is important."

There needs to be parking for the van and collectors' cars, space to store dried foods, room to sort collections and a large accessible area where goods can be laid out.

Billy said: "We are putting a plea out publicly, that if you are perhaps a sports club with underused space in the day times, a warehouse with an underused area that you would be able to rent us out a part of, or any other ideas of a potential location, then please get in touch.

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"We understand it means that we may have to change the way we operate but we are willing to look at anything that can save the project from having to completely close at the end of the year."

Sarah Renfrey, founder of Fare Divide CIC and mayor Tracey Baker officially opening the scheme at Littlehampton Library in October 2019. Picture: Kate Shemilt / SussexWorld ks190582-2Sarah Renfrey, founder of Fare Divide CIC and mayor Tracey Baker officially opening the scheme at Littlehampton Library in October 2019. Picture: Kate Shemilt / SussexWorld ks190582-2
Sarah Renfrey, founder of Fare Divide CIC and mayor Tracey Baker officially opening the scheme at Littlehampton Library in October 2019. Picture: Kate Shemilt / SussexWorld ks190582-2

Sarah launched Littlehampton Community Fridge as a simple solution to wasting less food through the sharing of good-quality surpluses. Trials ran at Littlehampton Library for 16 weeks, in which the fridge shared out four tonnes of food that otherwise would have gone to landfill.

The community fridge was then officially launched in October 2019 and Sarah created Fare Divide CIC to operate it on a trust basis. It was the first to be set up as part of the West Sussex Community Fridge Network, a simple way of making excess food from businesses and allotments available to the community.

Covid forced a change, due to the temporary closure of the library, but this was managed successfully and by May 2020, the project had not only moved, it began a delivery service, working with Citzens Advice to get more than 100 food parcels a week to those who needed them most.

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Once it was back open for collections in person, the project went from strength to strength and in November last year, it launched a café with rescued surplus food and a pay-as-you feel menu. Hearty, flavoursome midweek lunches are served once a month at LA Second Chance Café, in Parkside Evangelical Church, St Flora’s Road, Littlehampton.

Littlehampton Community Fridge aims to reduce food waste by rescuing surplus supplies and offering them to everyone for freeLittlehampton Community Fridge aims to reduce food waste by rescuing surplus supplies and offering them to everyone for free
Littlehampton Community Fridge aims to reduce food waste by rescuing surplus supplies and offering them to everyone for free

If you know of a suitable space, or have any ideas of a potential location, contact Littlehampton Community Fridge on social media, email [email protected] or leave a message on 0300 030 9376.

Sarah said: “It will be a tragedy if we can no longer continue to provide a service to so many people and businesses due to lack of a suitable premises. We are willing to look at anything that can save the project from having to close at the end of the year.”

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