Community Fridge MPLS seeks to supply free, fresh produce to the people

The work of organizers from In Our Hands NYC, including "Friendly Fridge" in Bushwick (above), served as an early model for Community Fridge MPLS.

The work of organizers from In Our Hands NYC, including "Friendly Fridge" in Bushwick (above), served as an early model for Community Fridge MPLS.

Since the pandemic began, did you notice more cans of food popping up in little free libraries across town? Or that shelves stocked with non-perishable goods appeared on street corners in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder?

Attempts – large and small – to address food insecurity are everywhere, drawn from the community itself. And somewhere, inherent in this, is the idea that items must be shelf-stable, “non-perishable” to be donated. It's just… been the status quo forever.

Grab-and-go access to fresh fruit, greens, and perhaps a cold drink on a hot day may seem small until they're made scarce. That this is an unnecessary rarity is something Community Fridge MPLS grasps, and is actively working to undo.

Organized by six Black and brown women from Minneapolis and St. Paul (Sana S., Asha H., Ruth G., Zahra B., Vanessa A., and Ruti D.), Community Fridge MPLS is driven by the principles of community care, sustainability, and radical love. Their endeavor, in a tangible sense, looks like putting a refrigerator stocked with free produce somewhere in south Minneapolis. The organizers say they drew direct inspiration for their project from In Our Hearts, a network of autonomous anarchist collectives founded in New York City in 2004, which has already installed more than a dozen community fridges across the five boroughs since the murder of George Floyd.

“We came together for this project because we saw a need for sustainable responses to food insecurity in our communities,” the team responsible for Community Fridge MPLS told City Pages.

“We envision the fridge to be a local solution to food waste," they said. "Globally up to half of all food is wasted. While any type of produce is welcomed, we want to encourage community members to think about donating to the fridge when they buy more lettuce than they can eat that week; or for local groceries to stock the fridge when food is still good to eat but past sell-by-date.”

So what has prevented refrigerated free shelves from existing before now? Issues of practicality remain a hurdle. Though they’ve secured a fridge that fits their goals and they expect to be up and running very soon, as of press time the team explained they were still working with businesses in south Minneapolis to find a forever home for the fridge.

“Our goal is to find a wide sidewalk, accessible alley, or parking lot in close proximity to a business willing to share electricity,” they explained. “If people have suggestions we would love to hear them!”

Do you have ideas for the fridge folks? Or might you be interested in getting involved in a different capacity? The team says that right now, they’re looking for individuals with “specialized skills in food safety, people who know how to fix fridges, or folks with general skills to share.”

Should those roles suit your talents and capacities, organizers have created this handy-dandy form to identify how you can support their work. Otherwise, contact Community Fridge MPLS – and keep an eye out for where you can ultimately help keep the fridge stocked! – via social media.

(Keep up with those non-perishable supply donations, too.)