By Michelle Poirier
Keswick will get its first community fridge, which, pending the Town’s final approval, will be located at the Georgina Ice Palace.
After acknowledging food insecurity is a growing concern, Georgina Town Council unanimously approved the proposal brought forward by Keswick resident Ashley Mutch at the March 1 council session.
“It’s an idea that’s born of necessity. But it also takes people like you to bring that idea to fruition. So, thank you for all your involvement in this, and I look forward to the installation of this community fridge,” Mayor Margaret Quirk said to Mutch after her deputation.
Mutch, who hopes 50 to 100 people will access the community fridge per week, is encouraged by the council’s support.
“This has been a labour of love since October, so to hear everybody standing behind it, it was a really nice feeling of unity and feeling a part of Georgina.”
Mutch said the Keswick community fridge is based on the successful Newmarket community fridge outside the Newmarket Public Library.
But, since it’s a pilot program, it will be a scaled-down version.
“It’s just a small fridge at this point with a wooden structure built around it. It will also include shelving for dried goods,” she said.
“There will be pre-packaged meals or sandwiches. And there will be all sorts of produce, eggs, meat, and what have you.”
According to Mutch, the food will be sourced from local food recovery programs, restaurants and grocery stores. But she also hopes residents will donate food items.
Mutch will also post information on the fridge about other supports available in the community.
“We want to offer some sort of wrap-around support to the folks accessing the food because with food insecurity comes many other issues in someone’s life.”
Mutch believes Keswick is the right location for the community fridge, as more than half of the people who use the Georgina Community Food Pantry (GCFP) in Sutton live in Keswick.
When Mutch first brought the idea to Town staff, they suggested she reach out to the Food Pantry’s Executive Director, Cesar Caneo, who was eager to lend his support.
“It’s another initiative aligned with providing access and good food to the community to help those in need,” Caneo said.
“We will work with the community, the Town of Georgina, YRP, and York Region Outreach workers to make this initiative a reality, another tool available for the community to deal with food insecurity.”
That’s important because the need has never been greater as food inflation continues to peak.
Caneo said the number of clients visiting the Food Pantry has steadily risen since 2020.
According to the GCFP’s 2022 Impact Report Card, there has been a 23 per cent increase in the number of households visiting the pantry. And the number of first-time clients has increased by 155 per cent or 655 new households.
Still, Caneo says most people experiencing food insecurity still don’t use food banks.
“Of five food insecure individuals, only two use the local food banks. So, three out of five, more than half, don’t go to the food bank, even with the need,” he said.
Caneo acknowledges a community fridge, which removes the stigma around using a food bank, especially in a small community, maybe the solution.
Mutch and Caneo have suggested the fridge should be located at the Ice Palace at 90 Wexford Drive because of its central location and access to the public library since York Region Outreach goes there every Wednesday afternoon to offer support.
Mutch said they already have 44 people waiting to volunteer, and they will post more information for residents on social media platforms once things are finalized.
If you’re interested in volunteering or donating to support the Keswick community fridge program, email: email@example.com
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