By Jenifer Hernandez, age 10 and IndyKids staff
When the pandemic first began back in 2020, tens of millions of people across the country were left with little to no food. In an attempt to combat severe food shortages, reduce food waste and unite neighbors, communities came together and created the free fridge program.
Community fridges are located outside in neighborhoods around the United States and are accessible 24/7. Each fridge is frequently stocked with fresh fruit, vegetables, milk and other food products. The fridges are stocked by community members, restaurants, local chefs, urban farmers, grocery store owners and food pantries. People can utilize these communal fridges to get free food if they do not have enough money to buy their own, and there is no limit to how much they are allowed to take. They are operated by grassroots organizations and community leaders. The Love Fridge, which has more than 30 fridges across Chicago, explains that they “reject saviorism and practice solidarity, not charity.”
Community fridges attempt to unify neighbors, tackle racial injustices and ease poverty. Providing free meals and healthcare to others is a way to advocate for social justice. “You can’t talk about food insecurity without talking about poverty, unemployment, housing and healthcare,” Latisha Springer, creator of the Free99Fridge program in Atlanta, explained to CNN.
On top of helping people find food, these fridges help to fight food waste. Every year in the United States, 30% to 40% of food supply is thrown into the trash, a large portion of which is from stores and restaurants. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Economic Research Service estimates that 108 billion pounds of food is wasted in the United States each year, amounting to $161 billion.
In March 2020, there were around 12 community fridges in the United States. Today, there are an estimated 160 fridges across 28 states. An exact location of all the community fridges across the country can be found on the database Freedge.