The concept seems simple enough. Local businesses and individual households donate their extra food to a “community fridge” and anyone in need can take whatever they want from it.

The idea has already gained popularity in Spain and Germany as an easy way to combat food waste. With approximately $31 billion worth of food wasted every year in Canada, according to a 2014 report from Value Chain Management International, Musabbir Alam and his charity PEACE Initiatives Canada decided to start their own community fridge pilot project in Montreal.

Initially started in the Montreal neighbourhood of Little Burgundy during Ramadan to help families fasting for the holy month, Alam’s community fridge was so successful that it’s now going to be available year-round to everyone who needs it.

“Fatimah’s Community Fridge” is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and located in front of a local café run by the community organization Coalition of Little Burgundy.

Alam told CTV’s Your Morning on Wednesday that the project operates with the help of volunteers who stock and clean the fridge on a regular basis.

Any meals or ingredients available in the fridge are carefully labelled and the food is replenished every three days if it hasn’t been taken, but that’s rarely the case.

The fridge’s popularity has even encouraged local restaurants in the area to donate their surplus food, Alam said.

“It’s encouraging,” he said. “We’re actually getting regular donations from the restaurants in the evenings.”

Rather than compete with other food banks in the neighbourhood, Alam said they’re actually working together. He said the food banks support the initiative and contribute food to the community fridge as well.

Alam said he hopes other Canadians will follow suit and install fridges in their own communities.

“There’s a tremendous opportunity here,” he said. “This is something that can reach out to the broader community and something that is accessible 24 hours [a day].”