Food Flow is exploring an urban community freezer for meat. The project would provide the infrastructure to pool the resources of local social service agencies for bulk purchases of meat at volume discounts. The meat would be kept in freezer storage at a distributor or a large agency until delivery or access by the member agencies.
As a part of our exploration, we have been looking at existing community practices of community freezers from other jurisdictions. We have found the following typology of community freezers.
1. Community freezers in Northern communities
Community freezer programs (CFPs) are one of the solutions to food insecurity in Northern communities, often initiated and supported by government. CFPs provide a communal storage space where hunters can donate harvested food. Those donated foods are stored and accessed by those who face food access challenges such as low-income families, seniors, and single parents. CFPs usually aim to improve the access to traditional foods that would not otherwise be available. For some households and individuals, limited time due to working full-time and high cost of supplies and equipment often become barriers to go hunting on their own.
One interesting example is the Nain Research Centre’s Community Freezer Program (CFP) in Labrador. Their Community freezer program was established in 2011 by the Nunatsiavut Government and the Nain Inuit Community Government. In addition to a regular community freezer program, the Nain’s Community freezer program provides a youth-focused program, in which local youths with senior harvesters will learn inter-generational knowledge and skills by engaging in various activities and programs.
2. Meat Locker in Ithaca
The Meat Locker is a program of the Finger Lakes Meat Project by the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins and Steuben Counties in Ithaca. The Meat Locker program promotes the “freezer trade” idea – sale of animals by the whole, half, and quarter. For farmers, selling meat in bulk contributes to decrease labour and inventory management costs, but it is not easy to find many customers to do so. While consumers are also interested in bulk-buying meat to reduce costs, they do not have large freezer spaces at their home. Also it is not easy for them to find farmers, either.
To address this interwoven challenge in promoting local meats, the Meat Locker project not only provides an affordable communal freezer space but also uses an online portal – MeatSuit.com – to connect farmers and consumers. Individual members can sign up to get a unit in the freezer space. More than 70 units are available in the walk-in freezer. Units range in price from $3/month for small bins (that hold 18 gallons) to $5/month for large bins, able to hold 25 gallons or a quarter of a beef steer.
3. Faith-based “Freezer Ministry”
Another type of community freezers is “Freezer Ministry” by faith-based groups such as churches and schools (for example like this). While serving as an emergency response, Freezer Ministry is not focused on food insecurity alone. These programs are often aimed to support families and individuals who face unexpected life challenges and difficulties – sickness, hospital visits, home care, bereavement, pre-/post-pregnancy and others – ones that make it difficult to prepare meals for family. Freezer Ministry programs are thus complementary to other programs and activities provided to support their members. Programs often solicit volunteers who can cook meals for freezers as well as meals.