Glebe St. James feeds the hungry


More volunteers needed!

By Susan Palmai

Last October, Ottawa Public Foods opened its doors at 415 MacLaren Street. Its mission to reduce food waste and help feed needy residents of Centretown. Over the first eight months, success has been building.

OPF operates out of a brand-new shed designed and built by students in the master’s Architecture program at Carleton University. Other partners in the project include Glebe St. James United Church, Ottawa Community Housing, Arlington 5 Café and the Centretown Community Health Centre.

Unlike a food bank, the community fridge is open 24/7 and is not staffed. The food is supplied by individuals, grocery stores, bakeries, cafés and churches. Anyone can go to the shed and put food in the fridge or on the shelves; anyone who needs food can come and take what they want. Our motto is “Take what you need and leave what you can” – that’s how we operate.

A main focus of our project and other community fridges is to prevent food waste. We ask stores and other businesses to donate good food which can no longer be sold and would usually go into the trash. For example, some food which is past its best-before date or produce which is bruised or dark is still edible even if merchants can’t sell it.

Our volunteers – we call them “fridge checkers” – visit twice a day to ensure the site is tidy, remove inappropriate food items, check fridge temperatures and stock the fridge and shelves if supplies are available. That the fridge and shelves are often empty is a sign of our program’s success – it means that as soon as we fill them, people in need are coming to empty them.

Our donors so far include: Cedar’s & Co., The Wild Oat, The OOS Quickie, Glebe St. James United Church, the Centretown Community Food Centre, Carlington Community Chaplaincy, Hintonburg Marché, Real Canadian Superstore via Foodsharing Ottawa, Golden Baguette Bakery, McKeen Metro Glebe via Foodsharing Ottawa, Café Deluxe, Messine’s YIG and many individuals.

We need to grow this list by spreading the word!

This is a community-based program which will hopefully be self-sustaining shortly. We expect the Centretown and Glebe communities will make it so! How can you help us? We need to add to our roster of fridge checkers and build a list of occasional drivers. We get calls from businesses offering surplus food, and we need drivers right away to pick it up and deliver it to 415 MacLaren. It’s an easy way to contribute to improving the health of needy residents in Centretown.

Please contact us through our website at or Facebook at Ottawa Public Foods or directly at 613-286-3435.


Susan Palmai is a member of Glebe St. James Outreach Team, the team behind the creation of Ottawa Public Foods – Your Community Fridge and Pantry.

Photos: Susan Palmai



Share this