You may have seen an odd refrigerator standing outside a bodega, alone, either gaily painted or with just a simple sign: Free Fridge. You might have even opened it to see it filled with red apples and green beans and purple eggplants. Or you opened it and it was almost empty and you wondered if someone had just taken food out or about to put more food in.
There are over 100 free fridges in the five boroughs. https://nycfridge.com (The idea started in Europe and can also be found in many cities across the country). Depending on the group that is supporting the fridge, you may see anything from vegetables from the local farmers market to meals left over from a local restaurant. All fridges stand outside. And all are welcome to donate food if they can or take food if they need it.
These community fridges are a wonderous result of ‘mutual aid’ response to an increase in food insecurity due to COVID. It takes the proverbial village to hunt for unused food from farmers markets, supermarkets, restaurants and local pantries or to make connections with companies for USDA food boxes and to raise money to buy fresh produce and dairy. Mutual Aid groups donate used fridges, and others raise funds to buy new fridges. Each fridge has its own markers, its own community spirit. And each group supports the fridge not only with finding food, but also with cleaning and clearing the fridges. It’s a big job.
So let me give kudos to a whole lot of people: the bodega and other store owners who donate their electricity to hook up the fridge; the community of people who decide to take on this project and constantly clean it and fill it and mine the neighborhood for food; the restaurants and farmers markets that give weekly; the mutual aid groups that find these fridges; the truckers that deliver them – all of this is done by people who have other jobs but are concerned for their neighbors who don’t have enough.
So next time you see a free fridge, applaud the spirit with which it exists, and add to the contents if you can.
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