Walking down SW Holden street in South Seattle next to the Highland Park Improvement Club, a colorful fridge with bold lettering ‘COMIDA PARA TODOS,’ interpreting FOOD FOR ALL can be spotted nestled in a shed. This shelter was built by local volunteers using recycled wood, keeping the fridge protected from all weather conditions. Next to the community fridge lies an old dresser painted with white clouds floating in a light blue sky. As you open the drawers to the dresser, it’s stocked with non-perishable foods, ranging from tea, soups, dried fruit, various pop-top canned goods, and grains—all donated. The fridge on the other hand, is filled with donated sandwiches, fresh-pressed juices, various protein sources, bottled water, non-dairy alternative milks, and mostly fresh produce. The fresh fruits and veggies are the driving force of this community movement—ensuring resistance to food apartheid neighborhoods which has disproportionately left BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) neighborhoods without access to affordable healthy foods and fresh produce.
The movement of community fridges originated in Berlin Germany in 2012 by a grassroots organization called Food-Sharing, which had the simple initiative to save perfectly good food from being wasted. By 2014, the movement had grown exponentially reaching both urban and suburban neighborhoods across Germany and its capital. In 2018, the German Government, specifically its Food & Safety Regulators, cracked down on the movement. Unfortunately, this caused the community fridges (known as fair-teiler in German), to either close or move out of the public eye into more private spaces due to fears of unknowable risks—food contamination, poisoning, lack of labeling and processing. Thankfully, the aforementioned fears have never come to light, in part because community volunteers and neighbors check the fridges daily for temperature, expiration dates, proper storage, and inappropriate food donations. Irony is high when Governments place greater trust in the industrial food system, where food-borne illness outbreaks are becoming more and more commonplace, rather than placing trust back into the community and its volunteers.
Given now, in the wake of a pandemic, rises in unemployment, cut wages, and school closures, the demand for food and fresh produce has skyrocketed from surging rates of food insecurity and hunger. For households with children, food insufficiency peaked in early June at 13% here in WA state.1 As a result, the urgency for food at food banks has thus increased exponentially, resulting in long wait times (hundreds and up into the thousands lining up, in some parts of the nation) and empty produce shelves. As an immediate response to the pandemic, the establishment of community fridges across the United States—a movement led primarily by Women-of-Color, has become a celebrated form of bottom-up mutual aid. From New York, Chicago, California, Seattle, and many other states, marginalized communities have united, taking matters of food-distribution, food-waste, and food insecurity into their own hands.
Until social reform can offer a sustainable, fundamental build in food sovereignty, and a shift from our current industrial food system, communities will continue to find solutions that will meet each other’s needs by filling the gaps and providing adequate aid that the government has failed to deliver. If you are interested in finding ways to support community refrigerators, reduce food waste, and promote equal access to healthy foods within your community, please read below:
Ways to support:
Examples of Food & Items to Donate:
- Protein sources such as canned seafood (tuna, salmon, sardines), eggs, tofu, edamame, pop-top canned beans, lentils, and lean meats*(choose various types of fresh meat keeping in mind religious restrictions). *It is asked that donated meats be stored in the freezer rather than the refrigerator.
- Dairy products: Cheese, yogurt, milk, and alternative non-dairy milk.
- Fresh and seasonal produce: Here are some examples for the month of March – Apples, asparagus, bok choy, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, celery, chard, collard greens,kale, leeks, mushrooms, onions, parsnips, pears, potatoes, rutabaga, and sunchokes.
- Oils, seasonings, spices, and herbs are truly the base of every meal and are always encouraged for donations.
- Tea & coffee can make anyone’s day a little better.
- Seeds in the summer to grow fresh produce.
- Community fridges and pantries also accept menstrual products (tampons and pads), hygiene products for adults (soap, shampoo, conditioner, lotion), and products for babies (diapers and wipes). Due to COVID-19, masks, gloves, sanitizers, and disinfectants are also highly encouraged for donations.
Stay updated with community fridges online, either on Facebook or Instagram, for any donation requests.
Volunteer: Donate your time for fridge up-keep following community fridges food and safety guidelines.
Host: If you are a business, organization, grocery store, restaurant, or bakery that is interested in becoming an electrical source for community fridges please contact.
Local Artists: A large portion of the artwork you see on community fridges has been created by BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) artists who have dedicated their time and creativity into their decorative designs.
Starting your own community fridge: ‘Freedge Yourself’ is an excellent step-by-step guide and a great place to start by reaching out to an existing community fridge member, operator, or host in your area. https://drive.google.com/file/d/0ByNpGtZ0hcfaSUNEbFZpLXJKVW8/view
Financial Donations: Donations go towards the cost of electricity to keep the fridges running, extension cords, building fridge shelters and so much more. Venmo: @seattlecommunityfridge
• Registry of Community Fridges listed by city: https://freedge.org/
• Instagram:@ https://www.instagram.com/seattlecommunityfridge/
• Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SeattleCommunityFridge
• Linktree: https://linktr.ee/seattlecommunityfridge
Fridge Locations across Seattle: https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?mid=1yvavCfXWP546_SR677u9HK9mY1irWXJ6&ll=47.614619850613764%2C-122.32416995&z=11
Interested in learning more? Schedule an appointment with us to get support on your future journey to body and mind health.
|Written by Front Desk Coordinator & Nutrition Assistant, Tara Phenix-Touslee|
- Seattle and King County Public Health: Increase in Food Needs in King County, WA. Report Date: August 2020. https://www.kingcounty.gov/depts/health/covid-19/data/impacts/~/media/depts/health/communicable-diseases/documents/C19/food-insecurity-brief-report-august-2020.ashx