Tag Archives: United States

I am what’s wrong with America*

*according to some guy

On Friday, I went on TV and called for empathy for supporters of Donald Trump. Forget the candidate for a second, I said. Let us ask what kind of pain is throbbing in those precincts most drawn to his theme of destructive renewal. And let us ask, those of us who have felt history to be moving in our direction, whether we listened to — not redressed, but listened to — the grievances of our “brothers and sisters” before they graduated into anger:

I think we need to listen to each other again…The fact that immigration scares people. I’m a son of immigrants. I’m not going to reduce my commitment to immigration. But can I empathize with the fact that if your town was 95 percent all white and now it’s down to 60, that that can scare you? Can I empathize with that? Yeah. And did people like me do a good job of doing that? No. We didn’t. And I think we need to rediscover each other as a people. We need to hear each other’s stories. We need to listen. We need to adopt someone from the other side and just say, like, “Beneath your ideas, what is the life story that gives rise to those ideas?” We need to do that at the level of individual conversations, families, TV shows. But we have a huge getting-back-together to accomplish.

Normally, the quote above would suffice, but I must share a screenshot, because it will explain everything that is wrong with America (according to some guy).

I received a few warm, generous notes from people around the country afterward. One said, simply and eloquently,

thanks for recognizing our deeply felt hurt today

just retired from manufacturing,


Another wrote a thoughtful note about supporting Trump-Pence only after giving up hope on his anti-powers-that-be dream ticket: Trump-Sanders:

People throughout the world would have been shocked to see that Democracy can and does work when people are reasonable enough to debate and compromise.

But on Facebook, some guy named James didn’t like my call for reconciliation. He offered this comment:

An effeminate, domesticated male like you will never comprehend this rage. You are literally incapable of viscerally understanding. The rage will continue. What are we upset about? We are upset that a guy like you has a voice in the public square. You can be in the square as long as you sit in the corner, facing outward without a pen and pencil and only speak when spoken to. That is the source of the rage. What is the deal with your hair? Grow up man/boy.

When I saw this comment, I was engaged in an activity that didn’t put me in a very good position to refute his charge of failing to live up to his standards of manliness. But still I answered:

James, I’m not sure what about me made you so worry for your own masculinity, but I am trying to reach out across the divides of the country I assume we both love. I will keep trying. And I will be happy to listen if you want to share your ideas and experiences and can muster the grace to do so. Now, if you’ll excuse me, this domesticated effeminate has to go feed his son.

Now, James didn’t like this. So he explained what it was that so offended him about my call for empathy. It was, let us say, visual. I, apparently, hadn’t assimilated enough. Which is strange, since I’m from Cleveland. He wrote:

Anand, your focus should be on assimilation and not celebrating diversity. The divisions in our nation are caused by cultural Marxism and the desire of newcomers not to assimilate but demand that the dominant culture celebrate the new that they are brining. How do we reach across the divides? The answer is for the new to assimilate. You can start by your hair.

(As an aside, I think James meant “bringing,” not “brining,” but while I have you, certain dishes really do benefit from brining, and I know you are tempted, as I am, to skip that step in your recipes, and you really shouldn’t.)

I now countered James on two fronts. First of all, my hair is American. My hairstyle is not common in India, where my parents come from. Not least because I get my hair cut in Harlem, by a Japanese woman, and doing this would be an inconvenience for 95 percent of Indians living in India. Second, I noticed on Facebook that James’s parents had been missionaries to Japan, and that James himself was born in that country. I wondered how being a missionary and bringing your foreign religion to other people squared with James’s criticism of “the desire of newcomers not to assimilate but demand that the dominant culture celebrate the new that they are brining.” (Again, we assume he meant “bringing.” But do remember to brine!) I asked him,

When your parents went to Japan, did they assimilate into local religious traditions, or did they try to get people to celebrate the new they were bringing? Just wondering.

Oh, no. This James did not like one bit. Not one bit. He came back at me:

My parents went with the distinct purpose to change the Japanese view of religion. Let me educate you the purpose of missionaries is to go and convert people in this case to Christianity.

People that leave everything to come to America to become Americans are not doing that. It’s a shame that I have to explain the difference between the role of a missionary and the role of an immigrant to you.

Your hair is a symbol of your rebellion and your condescension to the dominant culture here in America. Like a Japanese robe wandering business hours and afro or the henya above Spanish words.

If you want to be helpful here in America young man what you need to do is cut your hair and encourage other immigrants rather than focusing on diversity to focus on assimilation.

What is the problem in America the problem is people like you that believe in cultural Marxism division rather than Unity.

Let me educate you again. Grab one of the pieces of currency in your pocket and write the words e Pluribus Unum a hundred times.

What is the bridge that needs to be overcome what needs to be done for Unity in this country people like you your generation and your worldview to change towards assimilation and not to be focused on diversity.

What is the fuel behind the Trump phenomenon? A visceral reaction to Someone Like You on our television screen?

Step 1 get a haircut, step to focus your mind set your world view on assimilation and not diversity, step 3 show some humility.

When Trump says he wants to build a wall, when he says we should not be politically correct any longer, Anand you should view that as a rhetorical missile headed straight for you.

We’re tired of being asked to change, it’s over, you go get a haircut.

Bless your heart😉

Make sure you do your homework there will be a test.

One of the things I have gotten to appreciate about James is that his words really speak for themselves. So I will only need to make a few observations in closing.

  1. James asks me to be “helpful here in America.” But James appears, according to his Facebook check-ins, to be in Japan at this very moment. Though we do not see eye to eye, I hope they do not build any wall before he has the chance to rejoin us here in America.
  2. James suggests that I cut my hair and “encourage other immigrants rather than focusing on diversity to focus on assimilation.” Here’s the thing, James. “Other immigrants” wouldn’t be the correct formulation here, because I AM NOT AN IMMIGRANT. I was born in Cleveland. And you, according to your Facebook bio, were born in Japan, which would make you the immigrant, James, wouldn’t it now? Welcome to America.
  3. Your missionary/immigrant distinction makes no sense, because it is designed for self-justification. By your logic, a missionary is a category of immigrant who is entitled to bend local culture to his or her tastes, and a plain old immigrant is any non-missionary person not entitled to do so. So basically a missionary is an immigrant who auto-exempts himself or herself from the duty (as you see it) to assimilate. This goes to show that the missionary position is not only boring but also sometimes wrong.
  4. A question, James: What culture did the early colonial settlers discover in America, and do you believe they were bound to assimilate into it? And did they?
  5. James, my man: What do you mean by “a Japanese robe wandering business hours and afro or the henya above Spanish words”? Whatever you mean by that cluster of words, that is a party I want to be at, and because I live in New York, I can be at such a party tonight if I wish.
  6. In closing, I just want to say, James, that, as an immigrant, you are and always will be welcome in my America. I’m a Cleveland Indian by birth. You are a Nerima Yankee, one could say. I have hope for you and me. And I have hope for America, because as I browsed the Facebook page of the man behind the venom, I noticed the absolute strangest thing:

I will take your desire for my friendship — still not revoked by you, still not answered by me at this hour — as a sign of how the republic we share might get out of this dark, sad moment: speak our truths, listen to each other’s, heal, repair, rectify, restore, and maybe, after all that, become friends.


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If your Spiritual Path feels Ugly, you’re on the Right Track

Via Cheryl Muir –

When we think of spirituality, many images come to mind—open fields, rolling waves, light and airy meditation rooms.

Often, they are Instagram-worthy: everything looks shiny and aspirational, and we post them with wild abandon.

And there’s nothing wrong with wanting to inspire people.

But here’s what I know to be true: spiritual growth can be ugly. It can hurt like hell. And at times, it can feel like we’re moving backwards.

We’ve all heard the old adage, “feeling is healing.” And it’s true. In fact, a good friend of mine shared a maxim about our emotions a while back and it punched me right in the gut in the best possible way. Here’s what my wise friend shared:

“The good thing about sobriety is you get your feelings back. The bad thing about sobriety is you get your feelings back.”

We don’t have to be in recovery to understand this, as the same sentiment applies to spirituality and personal growth, too. (And heck, aren’t we all in recovery from something?)

As an empathic woman, I feel deeply. If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you also have this gift. It can be an incredible asset. But it has a flip side—when old feelings resurface, they knock us on our backs.

I experienced this recently when some of my old hurts came back. They blindsided me. I could have pushed through them, but I listened. I allowed myself to fall. To cry. To feel. Intuitively, I knew I had pushed some hurts deep down and now they were bubbling to the surface like a previously dormant volcano.

I gave myself permission to lie in bed, rest and let the tears fall. At the time, it felt awful. Ugly. It hurt so much that it seemed like I was physically injured. But after two days of sitting in this feeling, I realized it was no longer my home.

And I chose to rise up.

That sounds terribly romantic, doesn’t it?

Here’s what it actually looked like: Setting my alarm and waking up early. Working out. Showering and dressing in clothes that made me feel good. Styling my hair and putting on makeup. Smiling when I didn’t feel like it, and listening to music that lifted my mood and raised my vibration.

It wasn’t easy—at all. It took a Herculean effort to change my mood. It would have been so much easier to stay in bed and wallow in it. There is a fine line between giving ourselves permission to feel old hurts and heal them versus allowing ourselves to fester. Because that feeling was almost like a security blanket—warm, fuzzy and familiar. Upon closer inspection, that metaphorical blanket was disgusting—old, dirty and overused. I chose to throw it out, to get up and change how I was responding.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, isn’t it? Because after that setback, I’m pleased to report that my life and business have grown exponentially. Life looks virtually unrecognizable, and I feel new. Transformed. Upgraded.

Often, a breakdown leads to a breakthrough.

And sometimes, spiritual growth isn’t all sunflowers and cornfields. Sometimes, it’s doing the ugly cry in bed on a Wednesday afternoon.

Feeling is healing, my friends. Feel it. Heal what hurts. And when we’ve healed, we have to make that decision to get out of bed and show the world who we have become.


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Turning old smartphones into anti-burglary devices and baby monitors

With 1bn smartphones lying idle in the US, meet the companies repurposing old smartphones into sensors and security cameras in a bid to tackle e-waste

old smartphone repurposed as video monitoring device
Manything turns old smartphones into video monitoring devices. Photograph: Manything

If Jim Poss hadn’t dropped his phone in the bath while bathing his son, he might never have hit upon the idea for his business. While researching a cheap replacement for his waterlogged iPhone, he had an epiphany: the used phones sold online for $60 (£45) or less could be repurposed as Internet of Things sensors and used to form flexible, low-cost security and vehicle telematics systems.

That idea quickly evolved into Modifi, a remote sensing platform that can capture everything from travel statistics to criminals. “There are around one billion idle smartphones in America,” says Poss, who also founded Big Belly Solar, which makes smart solar-powered trash compactors. “They’re just sitting in drawers at the moment destined for landfill. Yet they’ve got a GPS, two cameras, a microphone, a processor and five or six other useful sensors.”

Modifi works by converting used phones into low-cost sensor systems for use in security, fleet management and home monitoring. Users can create customised sensor alerts and mount the repurposed phones, which Modifi calls Mods, on a variety of surfaces – including doors, dashboards, walls and windows.

Mods can detect light, sound, movement, magnetic fields and power outages. If movement is detected in a retail store after a certain hour, for instance, the Mod can automatically start recording video and alert the owner of the building via a text message.

The company is currently working with three clients, which between them manage 8.1m “end-points” (networked devices). In the US, Poss estimates that Modifi’s systems could eventually account for over 110m end-points, “a seemingly large number until you recognise that this is only about 10% of the smartphones left idle or trashed annually”.

A Modifi device at a construction site
A Modifi device at a construction site monitors movement, decibels and light changes and provides alerts to site managers. Photograph: Modifi

Poss is hopeful that manufacturers and carriers begin to transition from an equipment-based economic model to a service-based one. “Instead of solving a thousand different problems with a thousand different devices, we’re taking this one hugely versatile smart device and giving people the opportunity to configure it as they want,” says Poss.

Although legislation imposes recovery and recycling targets on the EU IT and electronics industry, with penalties for companies who fail to comply, e-waste is still one of the fastest growing waste streams in the world. According to the UN environment programme, 41m tonnes of e-waste was produced in 2014. Up to90% was illegally dumped or exported to developing countries where devices are often improperly dismantled, causing health problems for workers and local communities.

Trade-in schemes run by phone manufacturers and carriers allow people to claw back some value from their old device; the higher-value handsets are refurbished and resold, while those of little market value are recycled. But globally only 12% of smartphone upgrades involve older devices being sold or traded for a new one. The Green Alliance estimates that up to 125m smartphones(pdf) are languishing in UK householder’s lofts, drawers and cupboards.

Modifi is just one of a number of organisations aiming to tackle this growing e-waste problem by repurposing unwanted smartphones. UK- and US-based company Manything has created a free app to repurpose old phones as wireless security cameras for home use.

Joanna Santander, head of business development for Manything, says it wanted to provide an ever-improving video monitoring solution without requiring customers to invest in new hardware. “Even if you’ve got an old iPhone 3GS with a cracked screen that’s never going to be worth selling, you can still put that to good use as a Manything camera,” she explains.

Manything has more than 500,000 registered users, and more than 15 years worth of video sessions are securely recorded every day – just under a quarter of YouTube’s daily video upload rate of 66 years per day. Several burglaries have been thwarted, according to the company. However conversations with smartphone manufacturers haven’t been forthcoming, says Santander.

The array of potential uses for unwanted phones is still being explored. Phonvert, an open-source project started by students at Keio University and Tokyo University in Japan, began when the students developed code to reuse the sensors on old smartphones, which attracted the interest of a couple of investors. “We were trying to start a business, but along the way we realised that both we and the world would benefit more if we made the project open-source,” says Tomo Kihara, one of the students working on Phonvert.

Currently, the team is focused on building a community around the idea and encouraging them to come up with new applications for repurposed phones. More than 300 ideas from around the world have already been put forward, often reflecting needs specific to each country. “For example, in countries like Finland where the ageing population is a problem, an idea to detect whether an elderly people had fallen was popular. While in developing countries around South Asia there were ideas for phonverting for education – ie to use retired smartphones as textbooks for children, since books are often very expensive.”


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Free-range meat can be worse for the planet than long-haul flights

by Katherine Martinko 

lamb dinner

CC BY 2.0 Jeremy Noble

George Monbiot wades into the meat-and-climate debate by explaining how ‘ethically’ raised meat is actually worse for the planet than those raised in confined spaces. It leaves omnivores in an awkward position.

When Guardian columnist George Monbiot modifies his long-standing “flying is dying” stance to say that something else is even worse for the planet, we should really pay attention. In an article called “Warning: Your festive meal could be more damaging than a long-haul flight,” Monbiot wades into the sticky world of meat production.

He writes: “A kilogram of beef protein reared on a British hill farm can generate the equivalent of 643 kg of carbon dioxide. A kilogram of lamb protein produced in the same place can generate 749 kg. One kilo of protein from either source, in other words, causes more greenhouse gas emissions than a passenger flying from London to New York… You could exchange your flight for an average of 3 kg [6.6 lbs] of lamb protein from hill farms in England and Wales. You’d have to eat 300 kg [660 lbs] of soy protein to create the same impact.”

The uncomfortable essence of his article is that so-called ‘ethical’ meat production – where animals roam the hills and fields freely and have a fairly decent life, aside from the fact that they’re eventually killed for someone’s dinner – is actually much worse for the planet than confined feeding operations, even though a life of confinement is far more unpleasant for the animals themselves.

The problem lies in the fact that grazing animals wreaks environmental havoc, while using vast tracts of land very inefficiently.

“To produce one lamb you need to keep a large area of land bare and fertilised. The animal must roam the hills to find its food, burning more fat and producing more methane than a stalled beast would… Nitrates and phosphates sometimes pour from their paddocks and into the rivers. Unless they are kept at low densities or on well-drained fields, pigs tend to mash the soil: a friend describes some of the farming he’s seen as opencast pig mining.”

This leaves omnivores in an awkward dilemma. Many justify meat consumption by buying free-range animals that have “lived a good life.” But if it’s really so bad for the environment as Monbiot argues, then it’s impossible to continue supporting that industry. On the other hand, I suspect many omnivores (myself included) would neverfeel comfortable buying meat from animals raised in CAFOs (confined animal feeding operations), force-fed grain, and given regular doses of antibiotics, no matter how much better for the planet it may be.

Monbiot says he is not anti-farmer, but unable to ignore the facts:

“The Arcadian idyll, a conception of the shepherd’s life (in both Old Testament theology and Greek pastoral poetry) as the seat of innocence and purity, a refuge from the corruption of the city, resonates with us still. But in the midst of a multifaceted crisis – the catastrophic loss of wildlife, devastating but avoidable floods, climate breakdown – entertaining this fantasy looks to me like a great and costly indulgence.”

What should we do? It’s the same old message that TreeHugger has been preaching for years now, but it’s more important than ever. Eat way less meat, or cut it out all together. Monbiot suggests saving the indulgence for festive occasions like Christmas, and then choosing wisely. Yes, it may affect the variety of your diet, but the sacrifice is worth it to preserve the great variety of life.

Tags: Agriculture | Animals | Animal Welfare | Diet | George Monbiot | Global Warming Causes


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Volleyball in a hijab: Does this picture show a culture clash?

Doaa Elghobashy and Kira WalkenhorstImage copyrightEPA

For the London Times it was a “culture clash”, for the Daily Mail “a massive cultural divide” between “the cover-ups” and “the cover-nots” – and for the Sun the cultural divide was not “massive” but “colossal”.

The pictures of Egypt’s women’s beach volleyball team playing Germany swept the internet yesterday, but while some people focused on what divided the players, others focused on what united them.

“Hijab vs bikini thing aside, how much of a ‘culture clash’ is it really if you are both playing women’s beach volleyball at the Olympics?” tweeted columnist Ben Machell.

CNN’s Bill Weir described it on Twitter as an Olympic Rorschach test, asking: “Do you see a culture clash? Or the unifying power of sport?”

Bill Weir tweet

A “culture clash” is defined in the Oxford dictionaries as “conflict or discord resulting from the interaction of (two) different cultures”.

There was none of this on display on the Copacabana beach, though the reaction on social media might be described as “culture shock” – “the feeling of disorientation experienced by someone when they are suddenly subjected to an unfamiliar culture, way of life, or set of attitudes”.

Up until the 2012 Olympics female volleyball players were obliged to wear bikinis (with the lower part no more than 7cm from top to bottom at the hip) or a one-piece swimming costume – a rule which some regarded as a transparent attempt to make the sport sexy.

The Australian Sports Commission complained that the International Volleyball Federation (FIVB), the sport’s governing body, had “introduced uniforms intentionally to focus attention on the athletes’ bodies rather than for any technological, practical or performance-enhancing reasons”.

But since 2012 the rules have allowed women to wear shorts, long-sleeve shirts and body suits. British weather drove the Brazilian team, among others, to take up the full body-cover option.

April Ross (L) of the United States and Jennifer Kessy of the United States shake hands with Larissa Franca of Brazil and Juliana Silva of BrazilImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image caption2012: April Ross and Jennifer Kessy of the US shake hands with Larissa Franca and Juliana Silva of Brazil

Egypt’s Doaa Elghobashy, however, is the first Olympian beach volleyball player to wear a hijab as well though, thanks to a last-minute concession from the FIVB just in time for the Rio Olympics.

“I have worn the hijab for 10 years,” Elghobashy said. “It doesn’t keep me away from the things I love to do, and beach volleyball is one of them.”

Her partner, Nada Meawad, chose to play bare-headed.

Doaa Elghobashy and Nada MeawadImage copyrightAFP
Image captionDoaa Elghobashy and Nada Meawad
White line 10 pixels
As well as wearing a hijab, Elghobashy had a patriotic manicureImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionAs well as wearing a hijab, Elghobashy had a patriotic manicure

Two tweets, among others, stirred a furious debate.

Andrew Stroehlein of Human Rights Watch tweeted the picture with the caption “What’s wrong with this picture? (Hint: nothing)”. Plenty of people replied to say they disagreed.

Ian Bremmer of the Eurasia Foundation, meanwhile, asked which of the athletes were dressing closer to how they would actually prefer to dress, adding “Not obvious”.

Tweet by Ian Bremmer

Some of those who replied to the post had a problem with women wearing the hijab at all – others had a problem with the idea of a sport where the woman’s body is part of the spectacle.

The men’s volleyball outfit, by the way, falls somewhere in between the bodysuit and the bikini – it’s a singlet with shorts.

And often the players cover their heads.

Germany's Lars Fluggen and Markus Bockermann celebrate after winning a point during the men's beach volleyball qualifying match between the Netherlands and Germany at the Beach Volley Arena in Rio de Janeiro on August 8, 2016Image copyrightAFP

Follow @BBCNewsMagazine on Twitter and on Facebook


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8 reasons why you should go for a walk

by Katherine Martinko

walking on the beach

CC BY 2.0 René Schröder

Walking can do wonders for your body and soul. It’s a miracle drug of sorts – an accessible, affordable, and effective treatment for countless ailments. Here are some excellent reasons that will hopefully encourage you to get out there, start moving, and get healthier.

1. Walking makes you happier.

Moving around outdoors can lift one’s mood quickly. Walking has been found to combat symptoms of depression as effectively as medication. Researchers at Duke University found that “a brisk 30-minute walk or jog around the track three times a week may be just as effective in relieving the symptoms of major depression as the standard treatment of anti-depressant medications.”

2. Walking reduces stress.

People who walk are less stressed, as the act of moving around pushes the stress hormone cortisol through the body, stemming the flow of worries. A study of 18,000 commuters in Britain found that people who walk or bike to work experience lower stress levels than those who drive to work.

3. Walking clears your brain.

Say goodbye to “fuzzy brain,” “brain drain,” “brain fatigue.” Getting outside for a walk will clear your mind and rest it. This is especially true while walking in a rural area or green space, rather than on city streets, where you must remain vigilant at all times. Wandering through a green space allows for reflection and relaxation.

4. Walking induces creativity.

By clearing away any residual fuzziness in the brain, your mind will be open for creativity. Get those creative juices flowing by walking, particularly in a green space.Reader’s Digest reports: “A recent study published in Frontiers in Neuroscience found that walking improved both convergent and divergent thinking, the two types associated with enhanced creativity.”

5. Walking makes your bones stronger.

Strengthen your bones through regular exercise now in order to avoid factures, osteoporosis, and spine shrinkage down the road. Bone density is built through exercise, including walking, and people who do it have healthier, stronger bones than people who don’t, according to this study from Oxford University.

6. Walking improves concentration.

A study from the University of East Anglia found that people who walk (or bike) to work reported better concentration upon arrival at their jobs. The same has been found for kids who walk to school. A UK Department for Transport survey discovered that 9 out of ten teachers said their students are much more ready to learn if they’ve walked to school.

7. Walking is free.

Forget expensive gym memberships and the gas burned to get you there. Walking doesn’t cost you anything and will provide great exercise for your body. At the same time, you can save money by maintaining good health habits. The Harvard Business Review estimates that for every dollar spent on preventative health, including time spent walking, you’ll save $2.71 in health costs down the road. All the more reason to get it for free.

8. Walking builds relationships.

Get outside with your friends and family and create opportunities for conversation by leaving personal devices behind. A friend told me that being active with her teenage son, while not having to make eye contact, made it comfortable for them to talk about all sorts of tough subjects. Walking enables you to interact with neighbours and your neighborhood in general, which creates a sense of belonging and a better understanding of geography than if you drive around in a vehicle. In the words of urban affairs journalist Christopher Hume, “Walking is a reflection of how we feel about the environment in which we live.”


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Greggs and M&S join movement to donate leftover food to solidarity fridges

Afridge inside a brightly painted ex-public toilet block is helping a Somerset town’s food businesses reduce their waste. “It’s gone from something a bit weird to being normal,” says Sheila Gore, owner of Frome Wholefoods.

Frome’s community fridge was launched in April 2016 after the town council’s resilience officer, Anna Francis, heard about solidarity fridges in Spain, where residents and restaurants can drop off food otherwise destined for the bin. Students from the Edventure school for community enterprise got it up and running, and one of them – Esther Deeks – now coordinates the project.

Between 8am and 8pm every day, businesses and individuals can deposit edible food that would otherwise go to waste, and anyone can take it. Gore, who is also a town councillor, is one one of several local business owners who donate to the fridge. Her staple donation is bread left at the end of a day’s trading.

Frome Wholefoods
Frome Wholefoods. Bigger retailers are now also coming on board as word about the fridge spreads. Photograph: Amy Hall

“As a retailer you don’t want to have waste, but inevitably things go awry sometimes,” she says. “You can’t always predict fluctuations and variations so when you don’t get it right the fridge is very useful.”

The fridge, which has a five-star hygiene rating, is checked and cleaned daily by one of the 12 person volunteer team. Before food is donated the giver must read a set of rules, including no raw meat or fish, but ultimately the responsibility is on the person taking the food. There is a disclaimer on the fridge warning people to make their own judgements on safety.

Growing demand

The fridge has been rapidly growing in popularity and Francis says they have been overwhelmed by the response. More than 1,000 items were donated to the fridge in June alone and nothing stays in there for long.

The biggest daily donation to the fridge comes from the local branch of Greggs. But participation from other chains has been making slower progress than Francis had hoped, largely because of the difficulty of getting access to the people making decisions at a national level. “You really need a champion within the business,” she says.

However, some bigger retailers are coming on board as word about the fridge spreads. Marks & Spencer donates through neighbourly, a project which matches food initiatives with retailers who have surplus. The fridge team is also in discussion with the Co-op, Iceland and Asda about their local branches donating to the fridge.

The costs of the fridge, around £8 a week for the rent of the space, electricity and other costs, are currently covered by the town council. In a bid to ensure the project’s sustainability, Edventure is starting business sponsorship and a “friends of the fridge” scheme for individuals.

Wendy Miller-Williams, who coordinates local food bank Fair Frome, describes the fridge as a “lifeline” for some, particularly during weekends when referral services are closed. The fridge is complimentary to the food bank, which does not accept fresh produce.

But is the fridge just treating a symptom of a wasteful society which is leaving its poor and most vulnerable in food poverty? “That’s an argument we’ve come across a lot,” says Johannes Moeller of Edventure. “We see it as a campaign as much as a service. The fridge makes food waste visible and public.”

In 2015, the UK produced 270,000 tonnes of potentially edible food waste. Meanwhile, more than 8 million people are struggling to get enough to eat.

International solidarity fridges

There are similar projects around the world, including Germany and India. In London, Impact Hub Brixton hopes to open a fridge this summer after raisingmore than £2,000 in crowdfunding.

Spain’s solidarity fridge network, Nevera Solidaria, has gone from strength to strength since it began in April 2015, with nine fridges across Spain and more towns planning to join. The initiative, led by a voluntary group based near Bilbao, is open to everyone in order to reduce stigma and encourage neighbourly solidarity without the need for internet or smartphones.

Niaz Zomorodian giving food to local construction workers at her Dubai fridge
Niaz Zomorodian giving food to local construction workers at her Dubai fridge. Photograph: Amy Hall

“Today I may put in soup but tomorrow I take yoghurt. I think that this is the beauty of the project; everybody can do it and nobody is going to point a finger at you,” explains Ainhoa Crespo Gadea of Nevera Solidaria. Crespo Gadea estimates that as much as 90% of donations come from businesses such as restaurants and food shops.

In the United Arab Emirates, what began as a way to give during Ramadan with a few fridges rapidly scaled up when word spread through a Facebook group.

“It grew to 200 fridges across four Emirates,” explains Sumayyah Sayed, who developed the Sharing Fridgenetwork after watching low income construction and garden workers struggling in heat of over 35 degrees. Donations from businesses have taken off – from big corporates to small independent restaurants. For example, a cleaning company offered to clean the fridges for free and one chef reportedly cooked 175 biryanis on a regular basis for more than three weeks, on top of his regular work.

Sayed is excited about the potential of the sharing fridge movement. “Right now the whole world is in pain and it’s just lovely to see neighbours and communities coming together,” she says.


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