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Japan's 3rd 'community fridge' opens in Yamaguchi Pref. to support struggling families

Houfu Community Fridge is seen in the Yamaguchi Prefecture city of Hofu on Nov. 13, 2021. (Mainichi/Nanako Hori)

HOFU, Yamaguchi -- Japan's third "community fridge," a facility offering donated food, recently opened in this western city to support childrearing families in need, such as single-parent households struggling because of the coronavirus pandemic.

    Eligible families can receive donated food items and daily commodities for free anytime during operating hours at "Houfu Community Fridge," located on the first floor of the Rursus shopping complex in the city's Sakaemachi district. The country's first community fridge opened in neighboring Okayama Prefecture in 2020, and this is the first such support measure in Yamaguchi Prefecture.

    Houfu Community Fridge is operated by the incorporated nonprofit organization "Shimin Katsudo Support Net" (citizens activity support net) in the city. On the shelves at the facility are daily commodities such as toilet paper and feminine hygiene products, in addition to food items including cup noodles, retort-packed foods and vegetables donated by individuals and companies. A refrigerator and freezer to store fresh products will be installed around December. The community fridge is usually unattended, and registered users can unlock the entrance with a special app to take items they need between 8 a.m. and 9:30 p.m.

    The facility is also equipped with a kitchen, which can be used to make bento lunch boxes for children's cafeterias. Many such cafeterias are set up at community centers and other venues in the city. But for reasons including the fact that at times such venues could not be used because of the pandemic, the community fridge also plays a role to supplement children's cafeterias.

    Currently, five households use the facility, and there are apparently about 20 supporters who donate food and other items.

    The operating NPO's deputy senior general manager Kazuko Kyoi said, "If parents feel encouraged, children will, too. We'd like to increase the number of people who support our project through donations and in other ways."

    Donations of food and daily commodity items are accepted at the community fridge office on the second floor of the Rursus mall between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. except for Tuesdays and year end and new-year holidays. Donations can also be made via the internet at: https://smart-supply.org/projects/communityfridge/613813fb4f5b0e000e98b679?fbclid=IwAR30TbELz3usjc1MHwwwIOdcNVJfmJIq18C7lbsaiZm1XqspXkHU6iEc4SI.

    For more information, contact the NPO by phone at 0835-24-7744 (in Japanese).

    (Japanese original by Nanako Hori, Yamaguchi Bureau)

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