Three months ago Oxford academic Riki Therivel founded a community fridge in Botley to help reduce food waste and help those in need. She looks back over the success of the venture after the fridge received a five star environmental health rating.

The Botley community fridge has only been running for three months, but is already doing an excellent job of reducing food waste and helping people in need.

Community fridges – fridges in public places into which anyone can put food, and from which anyone can take food – have been running in Germany and Spain for several years.

The first UK community fridge opened a year ago in Frome.

Since then, community fridges have opened in South Derbyshire and London.

Botley’s is the fourth in the country, and others are planned for elsewhere, including other areas of Oxford.

The Botley fridge is located in an alcove in the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, 81 West Way, Botley.

It is open Monday-Saturday 9-5, and Sunday 11-5.

The initial aim of the Botley fridge was to provide a place where neighbours could put their surplus food, for instance if they were going on holiday or if their gardens produced a glut.

However we also set up a link with the local Tesco via FareShare, so twice a week we pick up their surplus fruit, vegetables, bread and pastries.

The fridge also sporadically receives food from other organisations: for instance we recently received hundreds of eggs from newly-laying hens at the Pig Place near Adderbury.

We told the local food banks, school and other services for people in need that we were opening a community fridge and that is where something really lovely started happening.

We started getting an increasing number of people coming in to take food who can really use the food.

Roughly 95 per cent of the food from the fridge is now going to people ‘in need’.

The fridge allows people who might otherwise visit a foodbank to pick up food in privacy, at a time that is convenient for them.

It reduces pressure on the foodbanks.

It also provides food to people who might feel uncomfortable visiting a foodbank.

For instance, someone can bring something from the back of their cupboard to put in the fridge, and take lots of other food home in return.

We don’t normally see who takes the food, but those people we do see say how invaluable the fridge is in this time of government cuts, and in this city where there is such a disparity between the rich and the poor.

The fridge is in OX2, but we know from the visitor’s book that people are also coming from OX3 and OX4 to take food.

So the fridge is providing real social as well as environmental benefits.

The fridge has a five star environmental health rating, in part because of a wonderful team of volunteers who check and clean it on a daily basis.

The church has just given permission for the fridge to remain after a three month trial period.

Find out more about the Botley community fridge, and how you could set one up yourself: