By Amanda Gonzalez Garcia
Food insecurity is when food intake or eating patterns are disrupted by financial or social struggles. In Miami-Dade County, 9.1 percent of the population experiences food insecurity. To combat this issue, community fridges have been planted in many Miami-Dade communities.
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 the concept of community fridges becomes more popular, people have begun to discover them through social media or via news outlets. In the time of COVID-19, volunteers ensure that the food is not expired and that everything remains clean.
However, it is up to the community to do their part as well. This means dropping off food in well-sealed packaging and cleaning up any mess you may make while taking food.
Community fridges are also a great way to reduce food waste. They have emerged in cities like New York, California, Denver, and Miami.
Miami has community fridges in areas known as “food deserts.” These are areas where there is limited access to fresh food options. Food deserts are widespread in low-income neighborhoods, where some families have little access to reliable transportation to get them to and from the grocery store.
Lack of access to fresh food leads to unhealthy eating habits. Families must resort to quick and accessible food, such as fast food chains and bodegas that often lack fresh food items.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, food deserts are associated with chronic conditions like obesity, heart disease and diabetes.
To provide help to people in food deserts, nonprofit organization Buddy System MIA has created an initiative called Miami Community Fridge. During the pandemic, the organization began delivering groceries to the homes of those in need.
Co-founders Kristin Guerin and Jessica Gutierrez knew they had to expand their work. For them, implementing community fridges became a reality.
Guerin and Gutierrez have created a “fridge map” on Buddy System MIA’s website which provides locations of local community fridges. The website also provides resources on how to volunteer or donate.
In South Florida alone, there are over 300 food deserts. Some include Overtown, Coconut Grove, and Homestead, which each have community fridges available. Guerin and Gutierrez hope to expand fridge locations throughout Miami-Dade County.
In Liberty City, a business owner named Sherina Jones worked with a local organization called Roots Collective to have a community fridge placed in the neighborhood. Jones’s salon had to close due to the pandemic, but she took notice of how Black and brown families in her neighborhood were struggling.
This is how Village (FREE)DGE Inc., came to be. They currently have three community fridges up and running. Information on how to get involved is available on their Instagram, @village.free.dge_.
This kind of support is what AmeriCorps VISTA member at Barry’s Center for Community Service Initiatives Kaitlyn Gallagher appreciates. People can also provide direct support by donating food or volunteering.
AmeriCorps VISTA member at Barry’s Office of Mission Engagement, Jaedyn Amaro, agrees. Amaro notes that the best items to donate are “sandwiches, fruits and vegetables, bread, and any product without a short shelf life.”
Some other acceptable items include; yogurt, canned goods, water, dry beans, noodles, eggs, milk.
Another great note to make is to donate food that you yourself would want to eat.
Community fridges are providing relief to families struggling during the pandemic. Gallagher believes they can also be the start to an important conversation about how food insecurity can be put to an end.