BOSTON, MA — If you see a fridge on the side of the street, think twice and maybe take a peek inside, it's not junk. Fridges are popping up across the city as part of community initiatives to help feed neighbors and those struggling with food insecurity.
What started with a community fridge in Jamaica Plain is spreading to Dorchester and soon, Allston. The motto of the community fridge is simple: Take what you need, leave what you can.
Volunteers check the fridge three times a day to make sure it's stocked with the essentials and that the food inside isn't expired. Residents are welcome to grab whatever food they need or donate the food they have, without judgement.
While towns in Massachusetts like Somerville already have community fridges, the idea for the Boston fridges was inspired by the fridges organizers saw in New York on social media. From there, the grassroots collective Boston Community Fridges started and has branched into subgroups based on neighborhoods and continues to grow.
"We saw this amazing thing happening over in New York and saw there was strong opportunity to bring that over into Boston," said Michael Murphy, the Dorchester Fridge's communications manager.
The Dorchester Community Fridge group expects to have the fridge up and running by Sept. 22, scooting in just in time for hunger awareness month. The fridge will be located across the street from Fields Corner Main Street at 1471 Dorchester Ave in Dorchester. Fields Corner Main Street is a nonprofit dedicated to supporting the Fields Corner business district in Dorchester.
People are welcome to donate items as long as they are clean, labeled and not expired. The coronavirus has added an emphasis on the cleanliness of the fridges and Murphy said volunteers checking the fridges ensure the food and fridge are up to CDC guidelines and best practices for donating food. Volunteers, which the Dorchester organization is still accepting, plan to pickup and drop off food to the fridge as well.
"We want to make sure the essentials are there like bread, milk and eggs," Murphy said.
Murphy said the organization welcomes questions about how and what is appropriate to donate to the fridge.
Beyond cleanliness, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the number of food insecure people in the city, Murphy said.
"What we've seen in Boston and beyond in this particular time is a need for community care," Murphy said, "Roughly one in five Bostonians struggles with food insecurity."
The fridges might be new but organizers want them to stay for the long haul, which means getting creative to last the New England winters. The Dorchester Fridge organization is planning on building a weather-proof shed for the fridge.
"We want this to be there year-round," Murphy said, "This is not a new need, there's just increased visibility now."
Boston Community Fridge organizers haven't heard from city councilors yet but said they have reached out. The fridges have received positive feedback from the community and organizers hope to keep the fridges spreading across Boston as long as they're needed.
Patch has partnered with Feeding America to help raise awareness on behalf of the millions of Americans facing hunger. Feeding America, which supports 200 food banks across the country, estimates that in 2020, more than 54 million Americans will not have enough nutritious food to eat due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. This is a Patch social good project; Feeding America receives 100 percent of donations. Find out how you can donate in your community or find a food pantry near you.