By: Yelin Gemma Lee, News Writer
On December 2, 2021, SFU’s first community fridge was launched. In the spirit of mutual aid, Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS) partnered with various community groups to address student food insecurity. According to a press release by SFSS, the fridge is based on a “take something, leave something” principle: fresh, canned, and pre-cooked food donations are accepted and made openly accessible to students. Initially located in the Student Union Building, the fridge has now moved to a new location in Maggie Benson Centre Room 50, opposite the entrance to Document Solutions Burnaby.
The Peak reached out to SFSS vice-president external and community affairs Matthew Provost to learn more about this initiative.
“We wanted to ensure that students have low barrier access to food because we know
that financial need for undergraduate students is a concern and has been one for quite some time,” said Provost. “It is important to note that we need to ensure our services encompass accessibility and equity as well.”
Provost said one of the ways to ensure this service is accessible to all is by assuring students there will be no policing around the community fridge. Students can access the fridge without an ID and there is no explanation required. He said those in need of these services could face stigmatizations, and gatekeeping does not ensure an accessible resource.
“Food insecurity is a huge problem, especially for marginalized students,” said Provost. “To be policing equitable resources leaves out a majority of our student population who may not feel comfortable accessing the Community Fridge. This leaves out BIPOC folks who may feel uncomfortable to reach out if there was regular supervision of this program.”
“With the pandemic, students have been forced to make decisions either to buy groceries, pay rent, or continue to pay tuition that is rising at unreasonable rates. It is important to consider many of these points because they are all intertwined at various capacities,” said Provost.
Provost credited Tara Flynn, civic and community engagement coordinator at SFU Office of Community Engagement and Embark Sustainability Society (ESS) for taking a large role in making this project happen. He said Flynn and ESS have done most of the behind-the-scenes work maintaining the fridge (such as drop-offs and pickups of food) with the help of volunteers.
The Peak reached out to Flynn for an interview but did not receive a response by the publication deadline.
In the SFSS press release, both Flynn and Provost emphasized the support and contributions of many community partners including Burnaby Primary Care Network, Food Mesh, Burnaby Neighbourhood House, and SFU Ancillary Services. “The ethos of this fridge is one of mutual aid,” Flynn said in the press release.
“I believe we all have a responsibility to support our community members in need and that this type of support is done with an open heart and open mind,” said Provost.
For more information, visit the Office of Community Engagement website.