Community fridge ‘stigma-free’ space

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In an effort to clamp down on academic stress and food insecurity, Assiniboine Community College installed a fully stocked community fridge on its Victoria Avenue East campus this past March.

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In an effort to clamp down on academic stress and food insecurity, Assiniboine Community College installed a fully stocked community fridge on its Victoria Avenue East campus this past March.

The communal fridge, which is accessible to all staff and students, is the brainchild of land and water management student Sara Madill, who told the Sun that this project has been positively received by certain members of the school community, especially during exam season.

“I have talked to a few students and they definitely have said that it has helped them that week,” she said on Monday. “It has provided them with some additional support in feeding their families and stuff like that.”

Submitted Assiniboine Community College instructor James Hood, Students’ Association executive director Matthew May and student Sara Madill pose for a photo in front of the school’s new community fridge, which has been up and running since mid-March.

This project has been in the works since the beginning of the 2021-22 academic semester, with Madill taking inspiration from similar initiatives that have been popping up across the country now that food insecurity has become a much more visible problem during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There’s one [group] I’ve specifically been in talks with, the Calgary Community Fridge project,” she said.

“I followed them on Instagram, I reached out to them and they actually have a guide that you can follow to successfully create a communal fridge in your community.”

After securing funding from the Assiniboine Students’ Association, Madill eventually found a used fridge for sale online, cleaned it and installed it near the union’s lounge.

According to executive director Matthew May, the Students’ Association council immediately resonated with Madill’s vision, since food security is a concern repeatedly brought to their doorstep.

Madill originally came up with the idea for setting up a community fridge on the school’s Victoria Avenue East campus and told the Sun on Monday that she is pleased with the results so far.

“Having a full kitchen helps students stay healthy and energized to keep up with the demanding rigours of their programs,” May said in a Monday news release.

To ensure that the community fridge remains well-stocked throughout exam season, Madill has teamed up with the Brandon Food Council, which is able to provide a steady stream of surplus food that would have been otherwise earmarked for a landfill.

Because of this partnership, the ACC community fridge is now packed full of dried goods, bread, packaged food, dairy products and even some fruits and vegetables, as long as these items abide by Manitoba’s food donation guidelines.

“And then we can only serve homemade goods that are made in a certified kitchen that has a safe food handling credit,” Madill said. “So, for example, we do receive items from the Manitoba Institute of Culinary Arts, since they’re a certified kitchen.”

Having overseen this project from the beginning, ACC instructor James Hood is really impressed with the way Madill and the student union were able to cultivate an accessible and “stigma-free” place for people to deal with food insecurity.

Submitted Assiniboine Community College instructor James Hood, Students’ Association executive director Matthew May and student Sara Madill pose for a photo in front of the school’s new community fridge, which has been up and running since mid-March.

“[These projects] are really an education process for the instructors as well,” Hood said in Monday’s news release. “The students become the experts by the end and make the projects work … It’s the best part of the job, to see their knowledge and their confidence grows throughout the process.”

While Madill is scheduled to finish her final exams very soon, she has already helped establish a sustainable community committee to ensure that this project will continue on even once she graduates later this year.

“I hope maybe instead of opening up more fridges they can get a bigger fridge at the same location, so they could fit more food in there and reach more students and be accessible to more people,” she said.

» kdarbyson@brandonsun.com

» Twitter:@KyleDarbyson

Madill originally came up with the idea for setting up a community fridge on the school’s Victoria Avenue East campus and told the Sun on Monday that she is pleased with the results so far.
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