Setting up and running a community fridge – what you need to know

Community fridges are a growing initiative to help families navigate the cost of living crisis and spiralling food prices. However, a group can’t just set up a cold storage facility for others to access without considering some essential legislative requirements relating to food safety and health and safety.

Much like a food bank, community fridges are a great way to prevent good food from ending up in the bin while promoting a shared ethos of mutual support. Unlike food banks, which often require a referral for users to use them, a community fridge is typically open to all, both for donations and access.

What the law requires of community fridges

First off, a community fridge will have to register as a food business. This requires the organisation behind such a resource to develop a set of food safety policies and procedures.

Those in charge of the community fridge plus any volunteers will need to be familiar with Safer Food Better Business guidelines. This document requires the implementation of risk assessments, cleaning schedules and maintenance processes. All must be embedded by Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) principles, a management system to keep food safe.

Community fridge maintenance

Those operating a community fridge must carry out some daily and weekly checks both of stock and the equipment itself. This will include cleaning and sanitising the fridge and wider workspace, organising and labelling contents, checking use-by dates and monitoring and logging temperatures daily.

At least once a week, the refrigerator will need to be deep cleaned and the four-weekly review required by Safer Food Better Business be completed and filed so that an audit trail is maintained.

Bear in mind that being registered as a food business means that inspections by Environmental Health Officers will take place and the community fridge will be awarded a hygiene rating that must be displayed. Nothing will erode trust and access to the resource more than a poor rating. A community fridge will also require public liability insurance.

The fridge itself will also require servicing in line with manufacturer recommendations but usually not less than on an annual basis. You may need to factor in a short period of downtime for the resource for this to happen. Staying on top of cleaning, maintenance, servicing and repairs of a refrigerator is the best way to ensure the resource operates effectively and efficiently for as long as possible and keeps on serving the needs of local communities.

Brooktech is an expert preventative maintenance, servicing and repair company based in the Greater Manchester area. For no-obligation advice on maintaining refrigeration equipment and legislative requirements, give our friendly team a call.

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