Community fridge

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Community fridge and public bookcase in New York City

A community fridge is a refrigerator (colloquially "fridge") located in a public space. Sometimes called freedges, they are a type of mutual aid project that enables food to be shared within a community. Some community fridges also have an associated area for non-perishable food. Unlike traditional food pantries, these grassroots projects encourage anyone to put food in and take food out without limit, helping to remove the stigma from its use.[1] The fridges take a decentralized approach, often being maintained by a network of volunteers, community members, local businesses, and larger organizations. Food in community fridges is primarily donated by individuals or food rescue organizations and can be sourced from a variety of places. Major grocers like Trader Joe's and Whole Foods donate large amounts of excess foods to food rescue organizations that then donate to these fridges.[2] The food donated would have otherwise been thrown out.

The main aim of community fridges is to reduce food insecurity, while also mitigating food waste. They enable people facing hardship to have easy access to fresh, nutritious food. Fridges offer a wide range of food from canned goods to fresh produce to pre-cooked meals. Pre-cooked meals are required to be labeled when donated. Many fridges also accept household items, sanitary goods, and during the COVID-19 pandemic, offered masks and other PPE. [3] Community fridges can also serve as social spaces that enable people to connect to their communities; Shelterforce magazine notes that "community fridges seem to have discovered a sweet spot in service delivery: close enough to feel the warmth of shared humanity, but far enough to avoid a sense of resentment or burden."[4] Many fridges also painted by from local artists.[5]


A community fridge in a church alcove in Botley (UK) with bread box on top and blue box of nonperishables on the chair

The first community fridges were set up in Germany,[6] by a group called Foodsharing. The next community fridge was started in Spain in 2015.[7] Community fridges draw inspiration from previous food initiatives.[8]

In the UK, early community fridges were set up at Frome,[9] South Derbyshire,[10] Brixton (London),[11] and Botley (Oxford).[12] A national network of community fridges was set up in July 2017 by the environmental charity Hubbub UK, which offers a free support service to new projects.[13]

Community fridges are a rapidly-growing phenomenon, with fridges also recently set up in New Zealand,[14] India,[15] Israel,[16] the Netherlands,[17] and Canada (Community Fridges Toronto has seven fridges).[18]

COVID-19 pandemic[edit]

Community fridges have recently made a wide emergence in the U.S. during the COVID-19 pandemic. During the COVID-19 pandemic, community fridges were developed in response to a significant increase in food insecurity.[19] In New York City, community fridges, nicknamed “Friendly Fridges,” were introduced in February 2020, the first one placed by an activist group, In Our Hearts. In Our Hearts has now set up at least 14 of the 70 fridges around New York City.[1][20] In Philadelphia, Dr. Michelle Nelson launched a Mama-Tee Community Fridge in North Philly, now there are 18 of them.

Food Drive at Boston's Dorchester Community Fridge

Using New York City as a model, community fridges have popped up in cities across the U.S. including Los Angeles,[21] Philadelphia,[22] Chicago,[23] Atlanta,[24] and more. As of September 2021, Los Angeles County has 14 community fridges. [25] In Chicago, as of September 2021, there are 26 community fridges providing support to the community. [26] The Love Fridge is a mutual aid network placing community refrigerators across the city. [27] In Atlanta, Georgia, Latisha Springer, started Free99Fridge, a grassroots organization providing food to communities through their community fridge network. [28] The organization maintains five community fridges throughout the metro Atlanta area.

In the Greater Boston Area, the first community fridge was started in Jamaica Plain in September 2020.[29] Soon after, another fridge emerged in the neighborhood of Dorchester, Boston's largest neighborhood. As of September 2021, fridges in the neighborhoods of Allston, Fenway, Mattapan, and Roslindale have emerged, as well as in the cities of Somerville, Cambridge, Worcester. [30]

In Thailand, entrepreneur Supakit Kulchartvijit's Pantry of Sharing pantry cabinets, a variation on the community fridges, was launched in May 2020 in Bangkok and Rayong.[31] Thailand's SCG Foundation emulated Kulchartvijit's initiative, putting up a total 60 pantry cabinets in the country by 25 May 2020.[32]

The following year in the Philippines as the pandemic dragged on, a trend utilizing a similar concept emerged across the country. Small carts carrying essential items were parked along sidewalks for locals to obtain any of the items without charge. The first such cart to be reported was started by the Members Church of God International[33] on March 14, 2021.[34]

Also in the Philippines, a similar idea under the term "community pantry"[35] was started on Maginhawa Street in the Teacher's Village neighborhood of Quezon City on April 14, 2021.[35] This initiative gained a wider media coverage than the MCGI initiative, resulting in the mushrooming of hundreds of similar initiatives throughout the country.[36] In about a week after the Maginhawa pantry's launch, more than 100 pantries were set up in various locations;[37] a week thereafter more than 300 pantries had already been set up.[38]

Following the Maginhawa movement's example in the Philippines, various community pantries were set up in East Timor.[39][40]


Challenges surrounding community fridges include maintaining cleanliness, ensuring food safety, and making sure that mutual aid model of community fridges is not abused (e.g. that nobody profits from the food). In the UK, setting up a community fridge requires a rota of volunteers to clean the fridge and check the food; public liability insurance; the support of the local authority environmental health officer; and, evidently, a fridge and associated waste bins.[41] Several community fridges in Germany were threatened with closure due to health concerns.[42]

Community fridges are sometimes criticized for not providing a systemic solution to food insecurity.[43] Fridges are needed by those who are actively hungry or do not have the means to access nutritious food, but do not address underlying causes of food insecurity.[44]

Fridges are also occasionally criticized for not addressing the needs of a community.[45] Often, food provided to the fridge does not meet the cultural and nutrition needs of the community.[45] In addition, there is often controversy surrounding the legality of community fridges.[46] Policies addressing maintaining a community fridge vary widely from community to community. Fridges must be placed on private property, which makes them dependent on the owners willingness to participate.[47] In Boston's Allston Neighborhood, the Allston community fridge was forced to move because new property owners were no longer willing to house them.[48]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Rosa, Amanda; Keith, Stephanie (July 8, 2020). "See That Fridge on the Sidewalk? It's Full of Free Food". The New York Times.
  2. ^ Oung, Katherine (February 17, 2021). "The rise of community fridges". Vox. Retrieved October 1, 2021.
  3. ^ DiBenedetto, Chase (January 9, 2021). "A guide to community fridges, from volunteering to starting your own". Mashable. Retrieved October 1, 2021.
  4. ^ Glenn, Ezra Haber (February 24, 2021). "Community Fridges Provide Vital and Visible Relief in the War on Hunger". Shelterforce. Retrieved February 25, 2021.
  5. ^ Crawford, Iris (September 2, 2020). "Local Artists Beautify Community Fridges as COVID-19 Continues". Oakland Voices. Retrieved October 1, 2021.
  6. ^ "Lebensmittel teilen, statt wegwerfen - foodsharing Deutschland".
  7. ^ Kassam, Ashifa (June 25, 2015). "The solidarity fridge: Spanish town's cool way to cut food waste". The Guardian.
  8. ^ "Officials Are Not Chill About The Community Fridges Popping Up Around LA". LAist. August 26, 2020. Retrieved October 1, 2021.
  9. ^ "Community Fridge Frome".
  10. ^ "Swadlincote's Community Fridge". October 24, 2016.
  11. ^ "A community fridge has opened in London to make sure food isn't going to waste". February 16, 2017.
  12. ^ "Botley community fridge". September 30, 2016.
  13. ^ "Community Fridge Network to bring social value to food waste fight". Resource Magazine.
  14. ^ "Everything you need to know about Auckland's Community Fridge". November 23, 2016.
  15. ^ "This community fridge in Versova makes sure no one goes hungry - Latest News & Updates at Daily News & Analysis". April 23, 2017.
  16. ^ "Log into Facebook". Facebook. {{cite web}}: Cite uses generic title (help)
  17. ^ Engbers, Pascal (October 29, 2020). "Jumbo opent solidaire koelkast tegen probleem van stijgende armoede". Adformatie (in Dutch). Retrieved November 30, 2020.
  18. ^ Kwong, Evelyn (March 7, 2021). "'Take what you need, leave what you can': How a Toronto network is transforming the way we think about food insecurity". Toronto Star. Retrieved March 8, 2021.
  19. ^ Chaidez, Alexandra (June 20, 2021). "'There is still really a need for this': Community fridges charge on as pandemic wanes - The Boston Globe". Retrieved October 1, 2021.
  20. ^ "Two Community Fridges In Peril Days Before Thanksgiving". Retrieved April 27, 2021.
  21. ^ James, Julissa (July 17, 2020). "Community fridges show up in L.A. neighborhoods to feed those in need". LA Times.
  22. ^ "Woman Creates Philly's First Community Fridge to Help Those in Need Amid Pandemic". NBC10 Philadelphia.
  23. ^ Johnson, Christen A. (August 24, 2020). "Community refrigerators throughout Chicago offer free, healthy food".
  24. ^ Zauner, Brooke (August 28, 2020). "Atlanta entrepreneur battles food insecurity with community fridges". FOX 5 Atlanta.
  25. ^ "Bubble - Visual Programming". Bubble. Retrieved October 1, 2021.
  26. ^ "Find A Fridge". The Love Fridge Chicago. Retrieved October 1, 2021.
  27. ^ "Chicago's 'Love Fridge' Project Offers Stigma-Free Food To Residents In Need". WBEZ Chicago. December 24, 2020. Retrieved October 1, 2021.
  28. ^ McKibben, Beth (August 27, 2020). "An Atlanta Entrepreneur Launches a Free Community Fridge Initiative to Combat Food Insecurity". Eater Atlanta. Retrieved October 1, 2021.
  29. ^ "Take What You Need, Leave What You Can At A Community Fridge In Boston". September 17, 2020.
  30. ^ Nanos, Janelle (September 25, 2020). "To combat hunger, neighbors are stocking community fridges on Boston's streets - The Boston Globe".
  31. ^ "'Pantry of Sharing': community pantries help Thais in need during COVID-19". Retrieved May 6, 2021.
  32. ^ "SCG Foundation Deploys Over 60 "Pantry of Sharing" Cabinets Nationwide". SCG Foundation. May 25, 2020. Retrieved May 6, 2021.
  33. ^ "MCGI Free Store, global launch sa March 14, 2021". Radyo La Verdad. March 9, 2021. Retrieved May 2, 2021.
  34. ^ Rivera, Jerah May (April 14, 2021). "LOOK: Las Piñas store gives free groceries to residents". Retrieved May 2, 2021.
  35. ^ a b Cabato, Regine (April 21, 2021). "Community pantries offer reprieve from covid-19 hardships in the Philippines". The Washington Post.
  36. ^ Del Mundo, Rubi (April 21, 2021). "Mutual Aid, Community Pantries Bring Out the Best in Filipinos and the Worst in Duterte's Inhumane Regime". Philippine Revolution Web Central.
  37. ^ Dancel, Raul (April 20, 2021). "Community pantries sprout across the Philippines amid flailing govt response to Covid-19 pandemic". The Straits Times. Retrieved April 23, 2021.
  38. ^ Valenzuela, Nikka G. (April 22, 2021). "Despite 'red-tagging,' community pantries rise to 350, says advocate". Retrieved May 3, 2021.
  39. ^ Sarao, Zacarian (April 22, 2021). "Timor-Leste takes leaf out of PH's book, sets up own community pantry". Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved April 23, 2021.
  40. ^ "More PH-inspired community pantries open in Timor-Leste".
  41. ^ "Botley community fridge -". May 20, 2020.
  42. ^ "Berlin's Public Refrigerators Were Just Declared a Health Hazard". Bloomberg. February 12, 2016.
  43. ^ "Freedge Movement: Grassroots Efforts Fight Food Insecurity With Free Refrigerators". September 29, 2020.
  44. ^ Food, Change; Box 139, P. O.; New York, NY 10276. "Community Fridges". Change Food. Retrieved September 27, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  45. ^ a b "Op-ed: Why Those Community Fridges Won't Solve Hunger". Civil Eats. July 30, 2020. Retrieved September 27, 2021.
  46. ^ "Legal Guides – freedge". Retrieved October 1, 2021.
  47. ^ "Community Fridges Toolkit" (PDF).
  48. ^ "Launched last year, a community fridge in Allston now needs a new home". Retrieved October 3, 2021.

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