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Combatting Food Insecurity in Underserved Communities: The Community Fridge Initiative

By Amanda Gonzalez Garcia

September was Hunger Action Month, an initiative established by global food bank Feeding America in 2008 to spread awareness, donate, and volunteer to ease food insecurity globally. Food insecurity is not knowing where your next meal will come from. To help contribute to the cause, Buddy System MIA, a non-profit organization founded in 2020 to respond to community needs during the pandemic, started a community fridge initiative.

One of the community fridges located in Hialeah, Ruth A. Tinsman Pavillion. The artist behind this fridge is Alex Yanes. Photo Credit to Amanda Gonzalez Garcia.

Community fridges are public refrigerators accessible to anyone. Anyone can drop off food items as donations, and those in need of a meal can grab food from the fridge.

As of April 2021, Buddy System MIA has established over ten community fridges in Miami. Each of their fridges can be found with an uplifting message. This initiative relies heavily on the efforts of the community. When going to a community fridge, people are encouraged to take what they need and leave what they can.

Fridges can be found in Overtown, Richmond Heights, Little Haiti, Hialeah, Homestead, Allapattah, Coconut Grove, Wynwood.

These fridges work to combat food insecurity, the rate of which in Miami-Dade is at 10.3 percent. The child food insecurity rate is at 14.4 percent.

Factors such as place of residence, job, transportation, and race can all contribute to food insecurity.

For example, Dr. Angela Odoms-Young, an associate professor of kinesiology and nutrition at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said from 2001 to 2016, that “...food insecurity rates for both non-Hispanic black and Hispanic households were at least twice that of non-Hispanic white households.”

Graphic Credit to National Poll on Healthy Aging

Hunger hits communities of color at disproportionate rates. According to Feeding America, in 2020, 24 percent of Black individuals experienced food insecurity. Those who are frontline workers and working in industries directly affected by the pandemic are especially at risk.

People who suffer from homelessness are extremely vulnerable to food insecurity but are underrepresented due to a lack of research or resources to capture this data.

Additionally, supermarket chain Publix just recently contributed to the cause of food insecurity. Since 2020, Publix has been responsible for donating over 33 million pounds of produce and half a million gallons of milk to Feeding America member food banks, according to Local 10 Community Relations Director Mayte Padron.

“Along with donation of food items, the company will also contribute $5.5 million to 300 Feeding America member food banks and other nonprofits,” wrote Padron in an article in September. “In addition, Publix operates a daily food recovery program, which gathers wholesome food that can’t be sold and donates the items to food banks.”

Graphic Credit to Canadian Food Business

Providing food is a start to fighting food insecurity but ensuring that the food is nutritious is just as important. Hunger and health are two connected variables. According to Feeding America, more than 3.1 million Floridians struggle to afford nutritious food. Additionally, 1 in 9 Americans face food insecurity.

Recognizing this issue, the community fridge initiative hopes to provide nutritious food to communities in need.

Buddy System MIA encourages and welcomes volunteers.

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