Okehampton Community Fridge volunteers recently celebrated one year since the fridge opened at the Ockment Centre

A small group of volunteers gathered at the community centre last Thursday (April 20) to enjoy tea, coffee and, in keeping with fridge organisers’ aims, surplus (though still in-date) carrot cake.

Emma Croft, who helped set up Okehampton’s community fridge, said: ‘Okehampton Community Fridge is currently redistributing 600kgs of surplus food a month. Everyone can come in during the opening hours of the Ockment Centre which are currently 9am-4:30pm. It’s self service but it’s run on an honesty basis so we suggest that each person only takes a handful of items so there’s plenty to go round.

‘The fridge is volunteer-run on a day-to-day basis and ably supported by the staff team at the Ockment Centre. They look after the fridge with care and attention and they make sure the food is safe and the fridge is clean.’

Since it opened last April, Ms Croft explained that the fridge has proved to be immensely popular with many residents with food often being redistributed very quickly.

‘It’s a bit of pot luck,’ she added. ‘Sometimes the fridge is empty.’

The community fridge receives surplus food from supermarket, businesses and individuals across Okehampton and even takes food from farm that would otherwise not be sold by supermarkets due to size, shape or blemishes.

Most recently, the fridge has received a lot of gleaned vegetables — a practice whereby volunteers help farmers pick crops that are of good quality but, for whatever reason, may not be sellable.

This practice has been doing well across farms in Cornwall, and Okehampton’s community fridge currently takes food from the Cornwall Gleaning Project.

But, Okehampton community fridge organisers are hoping to increase this practice in Devon.

The Okehampton community fridge is just one of hundreds across the UK which were set up as part of a project called ’Food Rescue.’

On average, community fridges across the UK are redistributing the equivalent of over 1000 ’meals’ a month; saving businesses and households thousands of pounds in the process.

Anyone wishing to donate to the fridge musy be aware of the food safety regulations in place: for example, community fridges can only take cooked food from registered food businesses and will not take any food past the ‘use by’ date, though it will take food that has passed the ‘best before’ date.

The North Dartmoor Primary Care Network Advisory Group came up with the idea for an Okehampton fridge just as Devon County Council was awarded funding from the National Lottery’s ’Reaching Communities’ scheme.

With the funding it became possible to set up a community fridge project.

For more information visit the Oke Community Fridge page on Facebook.