Community Fridges Toronto launches winter fundraiser


Community Fridges Toronto (CFTO) is fundraising to keep the program going as cold weather sets in. 

Sierra Leedham, co-organizer of the volunteer-run service, says that in addition to maintaining the fridges, which aim to provide fresh food that’s safe to eat to people in need, CFTO also wants to create “weather-resistant, eye-pleasing sheds.” These sheds will be created to further protect the fridges from any deterioration. 

“We want to make sure we can keep serving the community all year round,” says Leedham. “[And] when you put the care into building them, and the community cares for them as well. We don’t want it to be an afterthought. We know there’s a dignity in having a nice structure for everyone.” 

So far the GoFundMe page has raised more than $8,000 toward a $25,000 goal.

Part of a worldwide grassroots food security initiative, CFTO has been running since summer 2020. Since then, Leedham says the network’s volunteers have noticed just how much maintenance is required to keep the fridges powered.

“They get a lot of use,” she says. “Things can go missing. Sometimes you need to fix something on a fridge and you need certain materials. But right now in a pandemic, certain materials are harder to get.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a surge in food insecurity. Toronto organizations like Daily Bread Food Bank said in its 2020-2021 annual report that food bank visits have increased over 50 per cent in the last year and that they have been donating food at record amounts.

“A lot of people feel like the pandemic is over, and that these problems are over,” Leedham says. “But the problems are not just gone.”

And with the cold weather approaching, Leedham says the need for food is still there, even though it’s usually a time of year when fewer volunteers are available.

“There are many different things people can do,” she says.

CFTO is looking for volunteers who can undertake tasks like cleaning fridges, picking up food donations to put on fridges, and helping out with the network’s website launch and social media.  

The network also welcomes food donations from food businesses. In the past, wine bar Grape Crush donated a percentage of sales toward meals they would buy from other restaurants and donate to CFTO.

“We’re really just hoping and looking for people who can bring their skills and their friendly spirit.”

CFTO first started out with one location at 1132 College, outside the restaurant Ten. Now the network has eight locations, for people to donate their food to, with 240 Roncesvalles being the most recent one. 

“We’re to expand a bit again, but we want to take it slow and care for what’s there,” Leedham says.




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