Our fridge sharing mechanism has been considered as illegal by the Yolo County. Help-us fight back!
the past few weeks we performed a food sharing experiment in our neighborhood,
installing a public refrigerator in our front yard (at 812 Douglass Avenue in Davis-CA).
Over 29 days of operation, 122 food items were exchanged, an average of about 4
items per day! In the last days of operation we also had 3 books being shared,
which led us to the creation of a space dedicated to book-exchange. See our inventory here: http://bit.ly/1wNKabY
name of this project is free.go. Our goal is to reduce food waste and build a
stronger community through food sharing; we receive no profits, or personal
benefits (except for some tasty items that show up in the fridge and need to be
consumed fast…). This is an idea starting in Davis, but we recently heard that
similar projects are happening in other countries… you might say: convergent
would like to see this project become big, with the installation of fridge
sharing mechanisms in other areas of Davis, the country, and the world. But
right now we have a big obstacle to overcome, and that is why we need your
Welcome to the world of
illegal food sharing…
has been described as "Illegal food distribution" by the Yolo County
Environmental Health inspectors who have condemned our fridge because “it lacks
supervision and creates an opportunity of food contamination”. Inspectors state
that free.go has no "permit to operate" and that “no permit can be
issued”. They said we were violating the article 114381 of the "California
Food Retail Code" (even if we don’t sell any food) and the fridge had to
article 114381 of the “California Food Retail Code” states that “A food
facility shall not be open for business without a valid permit”. However the
same Food Retail Code describes a food facility as being “an operation…that
sells food for human consumption to the general public.” We conclude that it’s
quite hard to violate any article of the “California Food Retail Code” if you
don’t sell any food. In
our understanding free.go is not selling, distributing or giving away any food,
it is just providing a place where food sharing can occur and therefore should not fall
under the category of a food distribution facility.
our refusal to comply we were notified by our property manager that “failing to
remove the fridge and its enclosure” would result in “eviction” from the house.
We were informed that “the health department would be contacting the District
Attorney about this and pursue us in court if need be”. free.go was only 2
months old and already a tremendous law-breaker.
situation made us ask ourselves many questions:
If we invite friends
for dinner and they take some leftovers home, is this illegal food
If we have a fruit tree
in our front yard and want to put a sign saying “help yourselves”, do we need a
permit for that?
Wild turkeys can
be found in riparian and uncultivated areas of the City of Davis. Should this
be considered illegal food distribution?
· On social networks
(e.g. Facebook) there are many groups dedicated to food trading and
food-exchange. Is this illegal food distribution?
Even if we were actually
violating anything, we still could ask:
· What is the role of the law: Improving citizens’ lives or maintaining
the status quo?
· What happens when the law cannot evolve as fast as society does?
How safe is the food
of the food shared in the fridge is non-perishable, like canned vegetables,
canned juice, candies, packed cereals, uncooked pasta, tea bags, coffee, etc.
Perishable items are also shared, but they normally don't stay long. Products
with higher contamination risks such as fresh meat are rare, and when they
appear we only leave them there for a couple of days, or until their posted
expiration date. We perform regular safety checks on the fridge, at least twice
a day. We look for expired items and items that look "suspicious".
The fridge is cleaned at least once a week. The risk of food contamination is
therefore very low, but of course not zero.
there is no way to make sure that this food is 100% safe, like there is no way
to make sure that crossing a street is 100% safe.
Why fight against food
FAO says that in industrialized countries, about one third of food production
is wasted. More than 40% of this waste occurs at the retail or the consumer
level and very often the discarded products are still packaged…
roughly 870 Million people in the world (about 1 in 8) suffer from chronic
undernourishment. Even in the United States, where we produce over 10,000
calories per person per day, 17.6 million (14.5%) households were food insecure
losses at the consumer level cause unnecessary overproduction and demand more
natural resources than we really need. Entire regions rich in biodiversity are
destroyed to produce more food and about 30% of global greenhouse gas
emissions come from agriculture and deforestation.
We need your help!
We want free.go to be legal
and we are going to ask for the intervention of the City Council of Davis on this matter.
Sign the petition if you feel the desire to bring free.go back.
Thanks so much for your help...
The free.go team
How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single
moment before starting to improve the world - Anne Frank
More information about free.go:
Posted: 17 December 2014 (Updated: 14 April 2015)