May 17, 2022
1500 families provided with fresh, culturally appropriate meals through community fridge
Food insecurity doubled during the COVID-19 pandemic but a community fridge can help. Samara Grossman led multiple projects in the Boston area with Clinical Scholars Fellows Annie Lewis O’Connor and Hanni Stoklosa. They listened to their community and applied for rapid response grants to provide Dominican heat and eat meals by partnering with:
- Andrew Crispin, MS, Off Their Plate Community Feeding Lead
- Tracy Sylven, CHHC, MCHES, Director of Community Health and Wellness at Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital
- Laura Cowie-Haskell, lead volunteer of Roslindale Community Fridge
- Las Palmas Restaurant, a Dominican restaurant in Roslindale, MA
Due to the nature of the mutual aid tenets on which the Roslindale Community Fridge is based, there is no accounting of use by participants. Instead, the model is based on the concept of mutuality. “Give what you can, take what you need”. The Roslindale Free Fridge defines itself as a “mutual aid collective that works to provide healthy food access and COVID-19 resources to our neighbors through community programming and installing community fridges in our neighborhood.”
Adapting to ensure real access
So the team realized people who are stretched thin by finances, transportation issues, parenting duties and work schedules need to be able to access food that is:
- Ready to eat (as opposed to groceries that need preparation)
- Culturally appropriate
- At their convenience
- At a location that is easy to get to and near public transportation
Certainly the Roslindale Free Fridge met these needs as a local, easily accessible location near public transport. Free Fridges are always open and are unmonitored. This allows participants to access food on their own schedule, as needed. This was a crucial expansion from their initial plans, where participation was limited by location, weather and transportation options.
Additional lessons learned
Meanwhile, Off Their Plate realized that addressing food scarcity can be done ‘outside the box’- moving beyond grocery/pantry model and food boxes to learning about the power of the mutual aid movement across the U.S. as a method to address food insecurity. “We are now finding different tools to fight food insecurity,” stated Andrew Crispin. “We may work with community fridges even beyond Boston. This opened up a new avenue for us.”
We are now finding different tools to fight food insecurity. We may work with community fridges even beyond Boston. This opened up a new avenue for us.Andrew Crispin of Off Their Plate
In addition, Tracy Sylven also gained from this project. Her involvement in this project was a pilot experience for her. As a result, she is promoting sustainability by gaining a $150,000 grant for supporting free fridges in Boston area neighborhoods. As this was a new grant, she seeks feedback from the newly identified free fridge partners on what worked and what didn’t. So she can shape next steps in providing funding in a way that is not burdensome and helpful.
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