Hunger Alleviation

Shanghai’s High Tech Refrigerators Serve Food to People in Need

Oasis Green Food Bank’s Sharing Fridge Project takes home the annual Global Food Bank Innovation Award

A woman is standing by a refrigerator at a public square in Shanghai, taking food out for use. Monthly expenses are on her mind. Her husband has paralysis and her child needs supplies for the new school year.

Because of these demands, she is struggling to make ends meet. And this is why this public refrigerator has become an invaluable resource during her time of need.

This family is one of 230,000 in Shanghai living off allowances that barely cover basic living expenses. At the same time, the city wastes tons of organic products a day, the majority of which is food.

To help address these issues and as an extension of its food bank services, Oasis Green Food Bank, a member of The Global FoodBanking Network (GFN) based in Shanghai, developed the “Sharing Fridge” project, which offers families in need easier access to food. Nearby community organizations and restaurants supply safe excess food in the public refrigerator. Once registered for the “Sharing Fridge”, people in need can access the food at no charge.

“Each refrigerator is like a mini food bank,” said Eve Li, Director of Oasis Green Food Bank. Eve explained that the refrigerators are good stand-ins for food banks in areas that haven’t yet developed the infrastructure or have the staff to operate a fully functioning food bank.

Users can receive one meal per day, gaining access to the refrigerator’s content through several technological channels: QR Codes, facial recognition, WeChat, or ID card code extract. This technology provides data to Oasis Green Food Bank, who uses the information to understand where food is needed most and the type of food that is needed. Food bank volunteers then collect and share the remaining food in the refrigerator with the community.

Since the project’s inception in 2016, more than 40,000 people have obtained food from the refrigerators. Oasis Green Food Bank is exploring ways to expand this program so that 1,000 refrigerators are available at different sites in Shanghai.

“In a sense, Sharing Fridge provides a platform for benevolent enterprises and groups to dedicate themselves to the community, and for people experiencing difficulties to know that there is help,” Eve said.

In fact, the woman mentioned earlier in this article now wants to give back to the same community that helps her. She and her son volunteer at the cultural center during summer vacations. The center recently awarded her son the title of “Benevolence Messenger.”

Recognition from the International Food Banking Community

The Sharing Fridge project was recently awarded The Global Food Bank Innovation Award at GFN’s 2018 Food Bank Leadership Institute (FBLI) in Houston. The award recognizes and celebrates an innovative program that exceptionally increased the food bank’s ability to meet hunger needs in its community. Twelve finalists presented their programs to more than 100 FBLI attendees, who were then asked to vote to determine the winner of the award. The finalists were:

  • Banco de Alimentos Rosario – Food Door to Door: Disruptive Technology at the Service of the Community (Argentina)
  • FoodForward South Africa – FoodShare Digital Platform (South Africa)
  • ABACO – Returns Logistics (Colombia)
  • Food For All Ghana – Food for All Ghana Campaign (Ghana)
  • Banco de Alimentos Buenos Aires – Salvemos la Comida “Let’s Save the Food” (Argentina)
  • Banco de Alimentos de Bogotá – Integral Nutrition Program (Colombia)
  • Foodbank Western Australia – Community Kitchen (Australia)
  • India FoodBanking Network – School Nutrition Program (India)
  • Fundación Banco de Alimentos Cordoba – Fruit and Vegetable Recovery Program (Argentina)
  • Bancos de Alimentos de México – Eat as a Family (Mexico)
  • The Mississauga Food Bank – AquaGrow Farms (Canada)
  • Fundación SACIAR – Obtaining the SACIAR Organic Payment (Colombia)
  • Oasis Green Food Bank – Sharing Fridge (China)

Sharing Fridge won for its creative use of technology to allow beneficiaries access to donated food stored in refrigerators around Shanghai.

“We are honored to win the award, which is a professional encouragement for us,” Eve said. “The award will be helpful to us in the future as we collect food or promote Sharing Fridge.”

For more information about Sharing Fridge, visit Oasis Green Food Bank’s website.

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