Food insecurity has been a big issue in the US and across the world for many years, and the coronavirus pandemic hasn’t made it any better—it’s only gotten worse. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), 1 in 9 Americans were food insecure back in 2018. That totals over 37 million people, including more than 11 million children, and we can’t imagine what the numbers are now. But, as always, people have been figuring out ways to support others in their communities, and one way they are doing this is by starting a community fridge.
A community fridge is a public placed refrigerator that enables food to be shared within the community. People have access to take food or leave food there for others. In the UK and throughout Europe, community fridges are also called solidarity fridges and honesty fridges. The primary purposes of the community fridge are to reduce food waste and introduce easy access to healthier eating to those who are food insecure.
Over the last couple of months, we’ve noticed a surge in the number of people interested in starting a community fridge, right across the US. We had the chance to talk to some of these individuals to understand their desire to get one started. Some of them initially had no idea what a community fridge was, and after doing some research, loved the idea, while others already had a model like this in mind. The primary purpose for many was to fight food insecurity within their community, especially during COVID. It was inspiring to hear their motivations and provide some guidance, and we wanted to share these stories with you!
John C. – Las Vegas, NV Area
John is a busy man. While applying to medical school, he is currently reaching out to local businesses and trying to secure a fridge, with his main concern is figuring out how to insulate the fridge to last in Vegas’s desert climate. Previous work he has done on food distribution demonstrated the need to him for community fridges in Vegas:
“I’ve been working in food redistribution efforts here in Vegas since news of the pandemic and even more efforts in Los Angeles prior. But the work I have been doing recently has allowed me to see firsthand how much more food can be redistributed if only we had more locations open. I believe opening more Community Fridges would provide the opportunity for families to have quick and easy access to groceries even if they don’t have a means of transportation to reach some of our other giveaways!”
Brittany K. – Rock Hill, SC Area
Brittany was scrolling through her Instagram feed when she saw an existing Community Fridge program in LA. Through some research, she found out about the ChangeX platform and wanted to proceed with the project, to combat the high levels of food insecurity in her area:
“We own a general store and use our platform to make good change in our community. We’re open seven days a week and can manage it along with other surrounding businesses. 30% of children in our city are food insecure, and 41% of our college kids are too.”
Brianna M. – Carteret, NJ Area
Brianna just graduated from high school and was looking forward to attending college in the fall, but due to COVID, things are now up in the air. She is currently putting her energy into starting a community fridge to help underrepresented people in her community.
“A community fridge will help underrepresented families and community members to create a sense of unity with the one thing we all need: Food.”
Frankie A. – Killingly, CT Area
Frankie heard about the community fridge idea a few weeks ago when she saw a group in Portland, OR on social media. She lives in an area where poverty is high, and people have to make decisions to eat healthier or pay bills. She’s been talking to people about volunteering and finding organizations where she can house the fridge and maintain it. Her drive to start a community fridge comes from her personal experience:
“I grew up in Danielson, CT, and was part of one many families who were food insecure. In Killingly, most of the students who go to public school are in enough need where one of their only meals of the day comes from school. My community is also in a space where many people feel poverty and racism is an “us vs. them” situation, and I’m hoping that maintenance of a community fridge can bring people together.”
Advithi K. – Mountain House, CA Area
Advithi is a junior in high school and happened to learn about community fridges by watching a YouTuber’s video about receiving free food for 24 hours. She had never heard of the idea before and wanted to learn more about it. Advithi intends to start a fridge to help older adults and families to access fresh food more efficiently.
“I’ve been a resident of Mountain House for a little over a decade, and the only area to buy any food around here in our community has one convenience store; otherwise we have to drive to the nearest town, which is Tracy. I want to establish a community fridge here to give more accessibility to food especially keeping in mind many of the residents being elderly and families with a lot of young children considering the current situation with COVID-19 and traveling to Tracy for groceries isn’t ideal. I also believe that establishing a community fridge here would be very convenient since grocery stores are just being built here.”
Ashley G. – Chicago, IL Area
Ashley and her team were inspired by a Community Fridge in New York and decided to try to bring the project to Chicago. They put out the call on social media to see who wanted to get involved with their project, The Love Fridge, and in just 3 weeks the group’s Slack channel had already grown to 89 members and they had secured funding through the ChangeX and Microsoft Chicago Sustainability Challenge. Their motto? “Take what you need, leave what you can.” The group has also partnered with The Grocery Run Club, who will donate food for the first month to help get things started.
It has been a blessing to talk to these people and learn about their communities across the US. While some of them still have a way to go in the process, acquiring the fridges and finding a place to store them, we can’t wait to see how they get on over the upcoming months!
Are you interested in learning how to start a community fridge in your area? If you are you located in Cheyenne, WY, or Grant County, WA we can help provide funding and information to help you get a Community Fridge started here.