Feeding Funkytown – Fort Worth Weekly

The fate of a community refrigerator program is at risk due to a 64 year old law and city area rules.

“The city of Fort Worth is trying to impose restrictions on us that would make the refrigerator [essentially] inaccessible to the people who need it, ”the Funkytown Fridge team said in a recent Instagram post.

The 1956 law was designed to protect children from being locked up in refrigerators, and city codes restrict the location of large storage boxes.

Richardson: “The whole point is to smash capitalism and give people back their power by letting them know that there is a way to find your power to start a revolution.”
Photo by Steven Monacelli.

Code Compliance doesn’t want to “shut it down,” said Kendra Richardson, founder of Funkytown Fridges. “Because of the law they say they have to do their job”

A city spokesman said in an email that “this is the basic problem [Funkytown Fridges], a very well-intentioned project, is currently violating a Texas Health and Safety Act and a zoning issue in Fort Worth. “

Photo by Steven Monacelli.

The local code quoted regulates the “use of accessories” for non-residential properties. The city spokesman did not comment on how the zone code would affect the location of the three Funkytown refrigerators, which are privately owned with the consent of the owners. The spokesman also cited a state law restricting the placement of refrigerators.

When asked if state law applies to Funkytown Fridges’ refrigerators – none of them have a latch that can be closed so that they cannot be opened from the inside – the representative did not comment.

Photo by Steven Monacelli.

The Funkytown refrigerators have not been closed, and no citations have been issued by the city as of the date of this reporting. Richardson believes the kind of changes being discussed by code compliance officials would defeat the refrigerator’s purpose.

“They told us that one of our options was to move the refrigerator, which would limit access,” she said. “They also said they should put a lock on the refrigerator to make it inaccessible. They also said to only open it when we know people are there and lock it when volunteers leave, but we’ve had them out there for so long and people are so used to them that it doesn’t work becomes. “

While photographing a refrigerator in Fort Worth, a weekly reporter saw two families using it – something that might not have been possible if the refrigerators in the building had been locked or moved.

“We are still in negotiations to see what our next steps would be,” said Richardson.

Richardson’s personal experience led her to develop such a program that can help impoverished families in areas with inadequate access to healthy food. She grew up in the Stop Six neighborhood and recalls the difficulty of finding sources of healthy food.

Photo by Steven Monacelli.

“There are many black and brown neighborhoods suffering from food apartheid,” she said, referring to policy decisions that determine where and how nutritious food is sold in Fort Worth. “Stop Six hasn’t had a grocery store since I was a kid.”

In mid-2020, she saw an Instagram post about community refrigerators in New Orleans and Houston. The concept began in New York City last February and has spread across the United States. Community fridges, also known as “friendly fridges” or “community solidarity fridges,” provide free food to local residents – with no questions asked.

A refrigerator donation enabled Richardson to purchase Fort Worth’s first community refrigerator on Bryan Ave. Place 3144 on the south side, which is filled by community donations. The program has now grown to a total of three Fort Worth refrigerators.

“These refrigerators are so much more than just feeding malnourished communities and deserts,” said Courtney Duran, a volunteer at Funkytown Fridges. “They feed souls that show Fort Worth we care.”

According to the Tarrant Area Food Bank (TAFB), an estimated 280,000 Fort Worthians live in a food desert (defined by living a mile or more from a full-service grocery store) and nearly 14% of Tarrant County’s residents are food unsafe. According to Feeding America, a nonprofit that works to fight hunger in the United States, they don’t have reliable access to the food or resources to buy food.

A 2019 article by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found that food insecurity leads to “adverse social, physical, and psychological outcomes.” Using data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the NIH found that between 2001 and 2016, black and Latin American households were at least twice as likely to experience food insecurity as non-Spanish white households.

“There is growing recognition in health sciences, particularly public health, that discrimination and structural racism are major contributors to inequality in health behaviors and outcomes,” the article concluded.

Richardson believes that community refrigerators are “a great way to prevent injustice and food waste. This refrigerator gives people in these parts of the city free access to healthy food. We have communities where diabetes, infant mortality, and other problems are common. We want to reduce their burdens. “

The idea is to make the refrigerators self-supporting. To this end, Richardson asked potential donors to contribute fresh produce that continues to be in short supply by dropping the groceries off directly or by leaving groceries in one of several Funkytown cool boxes. Gifted (212 Carroll St.) and Indigo Yoga Studio (5111 Pershing Ave.) currently have donation boxes. Richardson hopes that eventually each underserved community will keep the community refrigerators and maintain them.

“It’s a new concept,” she said. “We tell these communities that we see them. Many of [the volunteers behind the project] are from these districts. The whole point is to smash capitalism and give people their power back by letting them know that there is a way to find your power to start a revolution. This is just the gate. Hopefully we can raise other people’s awareness. We build more community and more love. “

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