Community fridge serve Fort Worth’s vulnerable neighborhoods
Kendra Richardson, in front of the Poly Fridge, launched Funky Town Fridge to give people access to food.
The pandemic and subsequent economic upheaval caused a Fort Worth native to take a creative approach to feeding people living in some of Tarrant County’s hungryest zip codes.
Kendra Richardson launched Fort Worth’s first community refrigerator program, Funky Town Fridge, to enable people to access groceries from fridges held by the community.
“I think the refrigerators are great mechanisms in our community to feed those who may not ask for help or food otherwise,” said Lauren Selking, a Fort Worth resident who donates to the refrigerator at least once a month .
Richardson opened three refrigerators, each with zip code in Fort Worth, with restricted access to grocery stores.
Fort Worth locals donated all three refrigerators to Richardson. The fridges look like they could be found in a kitchen, only that they have all been adorned by local artists.
The refrigerator is in a wooden shed to protect it from the elements. There is also space for non-perishable foods and non-food items such as hand sanitizer, toilet paper, pet supplies, baby food, and hygiene products.
In early July, Richardson saw stories of refrigerators in Houston and New Orleans. She started looking for her own fridges and reaching out to potential host buildings to start her own community fridge project. Fort Worth refrigerators were open on September 26, 2020.
“I knew this was something Fort Worth needed,” said Richardson. “I wanted to show what action looks like. I created an Instagram to try and get the word out. “
She put the first refrigerator on Bryan Ave. 3144 in the Southside neighborhood. The others are in Poly and Como.
“There aren’t any grocery stores in these neighborhoods that I have refrigerators in now,” said Richardson.
It took some time for people to understand how the refrigerators worked.
“The concept is difficult for people to understand. You’re not used to seeing a refrigerator with a shed outside, ”said Richardson. “I understand, I understand, but now more and more people understand.”
As people started to understand the concept, their vision came alive. People started donating refrigerators, offering their building to host, and donating food.
“It took its own legs and grew,” said Richardson. “I think now people see how urgent the need is, and I think now the church is more committed to filling it. We learn as we walk. “
While community refrigerator programs have been in existence since 2015, more community refrigerator programs have surfaced in the U.S. since the pandemic began, according to the Freedge database.
Freedge is an international network that was founded in 2014 to promote and support community refrigerators. Freedge tracks community refrigerator programs around the world. The database shows 325 community refrigerators worldwide, 169 of which are in the US alone. Of the 325 refrigerators registered, 96 indicate the date the refrigerator was installed, with 42 installed between 2020 and 2021.
“We’re not just giving people something we just don’t want,” said Richardson. “You can get quality groceries from Whole Foods, Sprouts, Central Market, and everywhere else.”
People can bring fresh produce, mineral water, butter, yogurt, milk, frozen meat and eggs. However, community members should avoid putting items such as raw meat, homemade meals, soda, and non-nutritious foods in the refrigerator.
“My sister Mallory and I have now donated six times for the refrigerator,” said Melany Krazer, who lives in Fort Worth. “We try to get down once a week to once every two weeks. It depends on whether or not we can get enough goodies together this week. “
Krazer said she learned about the refrigerator from her sister, who saw it on Instagram.
To keep the fridges full, Richardson posts on Instagram to let the community know that they need donations.
“Kendra does a great job calling out to the community when the fridges are in need and it seems like the community always gets through in one form or another,” Krazer said. “It seems the community is doing a great job keeping them all full. I’ve seen nonprofits in the area, restaurants and small businesses have stepped up and helped too. “
The community is the basis of the project; Everyone can fill the refrigerator at any time and everyone can take groceries with them whenever they need them. While Richardson and her team of volunteers are checking into the fridges to make sure they’re stocked with healthy foods, it’s up to the community to keep them full.
“I can’t come and fill the fridge every 30 minutes. But even if I did that, it wouldn’t be sustainable. I’m trying to keep this thing up, ”said Richardson.
The Krazer sisters donated products, almond milk, bread, canned goods, shelf-stable items such as mac and cheese, tuna and spaghetti, refrigerator items, frozen products, beverages, muesli, shampoos and conditioners, hygiene items and books.
“We always help and donate when we can,” said Krazer. “Mutual aid is a very neat concept because it doesn’t necessarily donate, it gives what you can and takes what you need. You don’t have to jump through hoops to get items – it’s only there when you need it. I love that.”
The refrigerators make food easily accessible. Since the refrigerators are in the neighborhood where people need groceries, they don’t have to worry about transportation to get to the groceries or arriving at a specific time to collect it.
“I believe you [the fridges] serve so many members in our ward who may not know where else to go, ”Selking said. “We actually saw a gentleman when we were delivering food and he was so kind and grateful. It feels good to know that you are helping to provide food for those who may not have access to it. “
Anyone can open a shared refrigerator if they can find a local company that agrees to have the refrigerator placed outside their building. The host building supplies the electricity to keep the refrigerator running.
Some community refrigerator programs are part of larger networks such as Los Angeles Community Fridges (LACF) and A New World In Our Hearts, NYC; others are run entirely by individuals and their team of volunteers.
The story behind the refrigerator
Richardson, who teaches geography in the high school world, grew up in the Stop 6 neighborhood where she constantly saw people in need around her.
“The more people learn about the refrigerators, the more awareness there is of how these Fort Worth communities have suffered,” said Richardson. “I started the refrigerator because there were already black communities in Fort Worth who suffered from racism and then from the pandemic, so I wanted to make sure I did something to lighten the burden or make it a little better . “
Richardson said it’s not just about providing the community with food, it is also about making a lasting difference in these neighborhoods and addressing the systems that keep hunger pausing.
“There was always a need,” said Richardson. “People still don’t have jobs. People still live in poverty. All of this was long before the pandemic. The pandemic has only made it worse or either highlighted what people are going through. “
Now that there is an accessible resource in these communities, Richardson said the food is gone all the time.