A COMMUNITY fridge opened its doors in Wallingford yesterday.

The initiative, launched by Ridgeway Community Church, will allow people in need of food to access fresh goods, much like a food bank.

Located at The Fountain Bookshop, on St Mary’s Street, the fridge will be open Tuesday to Friday from 9.30am to 4.30pm and Saturday from 9.30am – 1pm.

Volunteers are needed, while individuals and local businesses are asked to donate fresh fruit and vegetables (though no meat or fish).

Coordinator Tracey Lloyd-Jones explained: “I am really excited about this venture and would encourage anyone and everyone to come and be a part of what we are trying to achieve.”

Food bank use in the town has increased significantly this year, but as well as helping people in need, the scheme also aims to reduce food waste and the community’s environmental impact.

County Councillor Lynda Atkins hopes that items close to their expiry date will be donated – making it like a ‘food bank for perishables’.

Ms Atkins, who cut the ribbon at yesterday's opening, said: “This is a brilliant community initiative because it takes food that might otherwise be wasted. I am really pleased that I am able to support them starting it up, knowing that we have got some people who can (continue the good work).

“It’s a sad thing that we need things like this but we do.”

The scheme is supported by the County Council, who provided help with initial costs; Sustainable Wallingford; Waitrose and Wallingford Emergency Food Bank.

According to the food waste charity fareshare, 1.9 million tonnes of food is wasted by the food industry in the UK each year. It adds that 250,000 tonnes of that food is still edible – enough for 650 million meals.

Two years ago, France became the first country in the world to ban supermarkets from throwing away unsold food and forcing them to donate it to worthy causes.

Wallingford’s mayor Lee Upcraft lauded the initiative, adding: “This is a really positive way of tackling food wastage and I applaud the Community Fridge volunteers for addressing it in a way which can also make a huge difference to the lives of people who struggle to feed themselves and their families.

“I’m probably as guilty as many of buying more food than I really need (at Christmas) – there’s an opportunity here to put it to good use rather than throw it away.”

Meanwhile, Wallingford Food Bank operates from the Bullcroft Park on Mondays and Thursdays, from 11am – 1pm. They are always looking for donations of non-perishable food items and long-life drinks.