FREDERICTON — The people who run the Fredericton Public Library are hoping to satisfy actual hunger as well as the hunger for knowledge.
They’ve installed a large refrigerator stocked with fresh fruit and other snacks that anyone using the library can access free of charge.
Julia Stewart, the library’s director, says staff are often asked if there is anything to eat by students who are studying and homeless people using the library as a place to spend the day.
“We have a lot of our most vulnerable people using the public library,” Stewart said Thursday. “We have lots of homeless folks who frequent our spaces. We’re happy to be able to offer them a quick bite to eat until they can get their next meal.”
She said students who are at the library and studying for exams also often ask if there’s any food available in the building. She said the food is free to anyone who wants it.
“The public library is all about removing the stigma. It’s the best place in the world, because you walk through the door and everybody is treated the same,” she said.
The Community Fridge was launched this week and so far offers a selection of fresh fruit.
David Aranoff was visiting the library Thursday and helped himself to a snack.
“I think its a wonderful idea,” Aranoff said as he took a bite from a juicy plum.
“I know they serve coffee and donuts on Mondays, and I think this adds to it.”
Dan Weston, co-ordinator of the Fredericton Anti-Poverty Organization, said between 10,000 and 15,000 people in Fredericton live in poverty.
“There’s pretty deep poverty here in Fredericton,” he said. “The library is a bit of a hangout for people in the daytime who are wandering the streets and have no place to go.”
Weston said many people need help getting enough food, despite having the food bank, the soup kitchen and the handouts his group provides.
“We have a free food giveaway here every Wednesday. We have a long line-up of people wanting stuff. A lot of them are immigrants who have large families,” he said.
Stewart said the response to the community fridge has been very positive, and the library plans to add a variety of snacks ranging from yogurt to sandwiches.
She said they don’t have a concern with people eating in the library.
“People take books home, so we know sticky fingers get on them wherever they are,” she said.
Stewart said the Fredericton Public Library has introduced a number of innovative programs in recent years, such as loaning out snowshoes in the winter.
“We do a lot of things with our community partners. We have a lot of things on the go,” she said.
Kevin Bissett, The Canadian Press