Tucked behind The RE Store in Bellingham WA is a Freedge. What exactly is a Freedge, you might ask? It’s a community refrigerator packed with free, nutritious food – and it’s open to all. This particular Freedge is the result of a partnership between The RE Store and Sustainable Connections’ Food Recovery Program. Every Tuesday through Saturday, the Freedge is packed with individual portions of surplus, prepared food from local restaurants, garden produce, and shelf-stable pantry items.  

The Freedge is able to provide an impactful bridge between those who have surplus food and those who don’t have enough. Hunger is on the rise in Bellingham and Whatcom County, and our community needs more and more opportunities to access low- or no-cost food. As Jenna Deane, Food Recovery Program Manager, says, “What I love about the Freedge is that it opens access to recovered foods to folks who aren’t clients of a social service agency. Just because you’re not a client doesn’t mean you don’t experience insecurity. The Freedge also has different hours than the Food Bank, which further increases access. And it allows you to get food in a fairly discreet way if that is important to you.” 

The Freedge has served over 12,000 meals annually. This project is truly collaborative, bringing together many partners in order to grow a more resilient community. As Deane says, “Of course, there’s our partnership with The RE Store, who is the host site. But there are so many more folks who’ve been involved at all levels. Robert Williamson School of Art designed and decorated the Freedge. The project was funded by the Department of Ecology and Whatcom County. Volunteers regularly bring food from local donating restaurants and food service establishments, including New Mexico Tamale Company, Grace Harbor Farms, Erin Baker, KombuchaTown, Starbucks, Woods Coffee, PeaceHealth, and the Miracle Food Network.” 

Whatcom County has been especially supportive throughout the entire process. “The Whatcom County Health Department was one of our most important partners,” Deane recalls. “They really worked with us to help us provide a safe resource. There was a strong willingness to figure out how to provide a safe resource together.” 

Whatcom County’s Freedge has been such a successful project that it’s being used as a model for a second Freedge, which just opened at the Upper Skagit Library in Concrete in December 2023. The Freedge is an impactful step towards addressing food insecurity and reducing food waste in Whatcom County – and beyond.  

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