No matter what you call them – fridges or freedges – they are a much needed blessing and service to the communities in which they reside.
For many, regular meals are not regular and possibly non-existent on many days. The fridges/freedges help to feed the hungry without cost. The donated food contained therein is free.
“At community refrigerators, anyone is welcome to take whatever they want and leave behind food they don’t need, like extra produce. Many volunteers who clean and stock the refrigerators daily ask local restaurants and stores to donate unused or unsold food items instead of throwing them away.”
These containers of community assistance were borne from the pandemic and a rise in food insecurity and hunger. In Los Angeles, Marina Vergara had been involved in distributing food for years to the homeless population, but saw a need for greater assistance during the pandemic. Selma Raven set up a “friendly fridge” in the Bronx to help her neighborhood.
“A network of New Yorkers collaborating with “In our Hearts,” an activist group, have set up and maintained at least 14 fridges, which are plugged into local bodegas, restaurants or homes with permission.”
At all locations, it is an “on your honor” system and no one is judged. People are allowed to take whatever they need, but are asked, in return, to leave anything they don’t need.
Fridges/freedges have also made their way to Nashville, Boston and Oakland. Ernst Oehninger, an economist and community organizer in LA, urges organizers of the fridges/freedges to link to local efforts such as community gardens, urban farm initiatives, seed libraries, community kitchens, and pop up kitchens.
“You need to have a team. A fridge is not going to solve a systemic problem.” They have to be connected to other organizations, he says, “or you have to make them.”
Here’s hoping that these little boxes of hope and health continue long after the pandemic, to keep our communities fed, healthy and safe.
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