Freedge at North Fork Library will address climate change, food insecurity

An innovative Whatcom County partnership to address climate change and reduce food waste has been awarded a $27,500 Small Communities, Big Challenges Grant from the Environmental Protection Agency. Whatcom County Health and Community Services, Sustainable Connections, Washington State University Extension SNAP-Ed and Whatcom County Library System will use the grant and local funding to build and operate a Freedge at North Fork Library in Kendall where Foothills residents can pick up free, nutritious food from qualified local businesses and farms.  

Freedge is a fun name for a community refrigerator filled with free prepared surplus food or produce from restaurants and other businesses. Thanks to the Freedge, instead of the excess food going to the landfill, it will feed hungry families. Sustainable Connections also operates a Freedge at The RE Store in Bellingham and supports the Freedge at the Upper Skagit Library in Concrete.  

In Whatcom County, food waste makes up nearly 30 percent of the solid waste stream, making it an environmental issue. When food is deposited in a landfill and decomposes, the byproducts of this decomposition lead to the emission of greenhouse gases.  

“The Freedge is a win for so many reasons,” says Brandi Hutton, assistant manager, Sustainable Connections Toward Zero Waste program. “It helps our community address climate change, bolsters food security, and helps businesses that donate reduce waste and access tax incentives.” 

In addition to the environmental benefits, the Freedge will improve access to nutritious food for rural residents who may be experiencing food insecurity. Since 2019, the Foothills Food Bank has increased operations by 300 percent. At Kendall Elementary, which is within walking distance of the North Fork Library, 70 percent of children qualify for free or reduced lunch, indicating a high level of food insecurity in this community. In the first six months of operation, the Freedge at the Upper Skagit Library in Concrete distributed 2,330 pounds of food or 1,942 meals.  

The idea for a Freedge in east county started with the 2019 Foothills Food Action Plan created by the Foothills Community Food Partnership. “In assessing the need for mobile food distribution spaces, we identified Freedges as an exciting model for east county,” says Noelle Beecroft, WSU-Whatcom County SNAP-Ed program coordinator. “We are grateful for all the key players and partnerships that are making this a reality.” 

Whatcom County Health and Community Services secured the grant and will assist the project with permitting support and grant disbursements. “We are glad to support this community partnership to address food insecurity and prevent wasted food in the east county,” says Erica Littlewood, public health educator with Whatcom County Health and Community Services.  

The North Fork Library Freedge will open this fall. Anyone may take food from the refrigerator, which will be restocked several times a week by Sustainable Connections volunteers. Library staff will monitor use of the Freedge. Sustainable Connections and WSU Whatcom County SNAP-Ed staff will recruit and coordinate food distribution. The partners will work together to maintain the refrigerator, to acquire necessary permits and to promote the service.  

“The North Fork Library is a perfect location for the Freedge because of its easy access and visibility and the library’s role as a community hub,” says WCLS Executive Director Christine Perkins. “We’re grateful to work with our partners to address food insecurity and climate impact. And we’re eager to hear Foothills residents’ comments about the service.” 

To learn more about the program, including how to volunteer or donate food, visit