RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
Spain's economic crisis has sparked a push for frugality, especially when it comes to food waste. Lauren Frayer traveled to northern Spain's Basque Country, to a village that's leading a crusade against leftovers.
LAUREN FRAYER, BYLINE: At a restaurant just outside the Spanish city of Bilbao, head cook Itziar Eguileor gestures toward a dumpster out back.
ITZIAR EGUILEOR: (Speaking Spanish).
FRAYER: "This all used to go into the garbage," she says, pointing to huge pot of leftover artichokes.
EGUILEOR: (Speaking Spanish).
FRAYER: "But now, these artichokes, we pack them in Tupperware, load them into our old Land Rover and drive them over to the Solidarity Fridge," she says. Deliveries like these arrive several times a day at Spain's first communal refrigerator. It sits on a city sidewalk with a tidy, little fence around it. Anyone can deposit food or help themselves. It's the brainchild of Alvaro Saiz, who used to run a food bank here for the poor. I contacted him in Mongolia, where he's onto his next project - building a hospital for handicapped children.
ALVARO SAIZ: (Through interpreter) The idea for a Solidarity Fridge started with the economic crisis, these images of people searching dumpsters for food, the indignity of it. That's what got me thinking about how much food we waste.
FRAYER: So last April, Saiz pitched his idea to the mayor of this town, Galdakao - population about 30,000.
Hola, soy Lauren.
IBON URIBE: Si.
Mayor Ibon Uribe.
URIBE: (Through interpreter) When he came to city hall with this idea, I thought it was both crazy and brilliant. How could I say no? We approved a small budget right away and granted this fridge a special legal status, so that the city can't be sued if someone gets sick.
FRAYER: There are rules - no raw meat, fish or eggs. Homemade food must be labeled and thrown out after four days. But Javier Goikoetxea, one of the volunteers who cleans out the fridge, says nothing lasts that long.
JAVIER GOIKOETXEA: (Through interpreter) Restaurants drop off their leftover tapas at night and they're gone by the next morning. We even have grannies who cook specially for this fridge. And after weekend barbecues, you'll find it stocked with ribs and sausage.
FRAYER: It's a big help to people like Issam Massaoudi, an out of work Moroccan immigrant I found poking his head into the fridge.
ISSAM MASSAOUDI: (Speaking Spanish).
FRAYER: "Sincerely, it's so nice," he says. "When money is tight, to be able to come here and open this fridge and find really good food - bread, tomatoes, vegetables, meat - it's amazing," he says. The idea is catching on. Another Solidarity Fridge has opened in a town on Spain's Mediterranean coast. And schools are starting to do field trips here to teach kids about cutting food waste and sharing.
For NPR News, I'm Lauren Frayer in Galdakao, Spain.
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