Wed. Nov 25th, 2020

Community fridges, grassroots response to food insecurity

Stocked by donations and maintained by volunteers, this is food from the community for the community.

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Fully-stocked fridges on pavements is a novel response to help with food insecurities made considerably worse by the COVID-19 pandemic.

These types of ‘community fridges’ as they’re commonly referred to, have been springing up in cities around the US and Canada in the wake of the growing crisis of food insecurity.

Community fridges is an example of an effective grassroots response to this problem, set up and maintained by local volunteers.  

Volunteers collect donations from restaurants and grocers; post on social media daily to inform users of what’s there and volunteers of what’s lacking; and organize the fridges so that the contents are clearly marked, visible, and always fresh. 

The fridges are cleaned regularly so that using them remains a pleasant, respectful experience. 

Take what you need, give what you can

In Bushwick, New York, Pam Tietze set up the Friendly Fridge. Tietze shared a heartwarming story about a woman who used to go to a soup kitchen, but thanks to the fridge was now able to take whole ingredients to do her own cooking at home. 

“There’s the dignity of going to a fridge instead of the [soup] kitchens … I’m confident that we’re providing a service for those groups of people.”

Universe City is an aquaponics farm in Brooklyn that frequently donates food to community fridges around the city. It also has its own sidewalk fridge that’s kept stocked with celery, apples, and cucumbers. 

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Executive director Franklyn Mena said healthy fresh food is crucial for residents to remain healthy or improve their health. 

“The more we have control over how we produce the food, how we process the food, and how we distribute the food as a community, then we have a higher and greater chance for finding wellness solutions for our people.”

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As Jalil Bokhari told the National Post, it doesn’t take much to extend one’s privilege to others:

“You’re going to the grocery store, you grab an extra orange or two, and if 30 people do that, then the fridge is stocked… By the morning, they’re empty.”

“You could tell that there is this want and need for people to be able to help their community. They’re just looking for ways and channels to do it, and it goes beyond just donating money. I think people actually want to be and see the change. They want to go out and do something, and see how that can actually affect people and work.”

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