The rise in unemployment and personal issues resulting from the pandemic has massively increased the amount of residents unable to secure an adequate and nutritious diet for themselves and their families. However, Merton’s Community Fridge continues to offer fresh, healthy food.
Each week, volunteers hand out free food parcels to eligible residents at Morden Baptist Church, Grasmere Avenue, on Thursday afternoons from 2–4pm. Merton’s Community Fridge was conceived by Sustainable Merton, Merton’s leading environmental charity, before the COVID-19 crisis, to help find a long-term solution to tackle food poverty and reduce food waste. During the lockdown it became part of the emergency response to provide food for hundreds of people, including residents unable to shop as they were required to shield.
Sustainable Merton’s Community Champions, a 70-strong group of residents passionate about improving the environment, played a key role in establishing Merton’s Community Fridge. They worked tirelessly to get food to people and continue to keep the lifeline going. Thanks to the time they have given, in May and June alone, Sustainable Merton distributed over 1,700kg of food, saving 5,550kg of CO2, and provided food assistance to almost 50 families.
As soon as lockdown came into place, Merton Council, in partnership with Merton College and Sustainable Merton, led on the co-ordination of a rapidly-established network of local organisations working together to tackle the COVID-19 food crisis. A central food distribution hub was set up at Merton College, Morden, which has bulk storage facilities. Food was brought to the hub, staffed by Merton Council employees, by the London Food Alliance and came from surplus stock, donated by wholesalers, manufacturers, restaurants and supermarkets. A range of groups distributed food, including Sustainable Merton, Wimbledon Foodbank, The Wimbledon Guild, The Dons Local Action Group, Kommunity Kitchen, the Salvation Army, Commonside Development Trust, Friends in St. Helier, the Polish Family Association, as well as Tooting and Mitcham Football Club.