Free Community Fridges – A Food Insecurity Solution

Written in collaboration with Worcester Free Fridge Project/Worcester Community Fridges

Abby Beilman and Mia Davis

Food insecurity, defined by Feeding America as a “household’s inability to provide enough food for every person to live an active, healthy life,” is an issue for many across the United States and globally, especially college students. For those who are first-generation or low-income students, food insecurity can be an even more pertinent issue if they have to feed themselves without family support or have to help their family financially while at school. This issue is further exacerbated for historically marginalized and oppressed students of color at the intersection of poverty and racism that make being able to afford adequate nutrition especially challenging.

Clark Sustainability Action’s food insecurity project group has previously evaluated traditional support options – food pantries and soup kitchens – that are available to students in close proximity to Clark’s campus. However, these traditional options can be difficult for students to access if they are working or in school due to the hours and format of operation, with additional identification and citizenship barriers for some. Recently though, a new solution to food insecurity has been popping up around Worcester – community fridges. A form of mutual aid, community fridges are public refrigerators stocked with food by those who have some to give and used by those who are in need. They intend to remove boundaries between those donating and those accessing, and create a community around the issue of food insecurity. They are ways to circumvent many of the issues associated with traditional food insecurity resources by creating community-centered solutions for an issue that impacts many.

Two groups – Worcester Free Fridge and Worcester Community Fridges – have been the driving force behind the local fridge efforts. With locations at 300 Southbridge Street, 910 Main Street and 44 Portland Street, both groups have sought to address a perceived lack of government allocated resources to address hunger and an increasing need for food aid resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. In order to further build on the community-centric and collaborative intentions for the project, the two groups have recently merged into one, with all three fridges being operated and run by the now combined groups .

The free fridges are open to anyone in need, and can also be contributed to by anyone who is able. Donation information for both food and monetary contributions can be found on their website. The fridges also have an active social media presence, and you can follow them on instagram at woo.fridge or join the Worcester Community Fridges Facebook Group to stay updated on or get involved in their efforts.

Food insecurity is a serious issue. Mutual aid, such as that offered by the free community fridges, is one of many solutions. The fridges offer something that food pantries and soup kitchens often do not – flexibility. This adaptability is especially important for food insecure college students. These systems of mutual aid are here for everyone, so if you are in need, don’t hesitate to use them. One of the biggest resources provided by Clark University Student Council is the F.I.R.M Food Pantry, open 7 days a week, and offering fresh produce, snacks, laundry pods, and so much more. It is open to all students, staff & faculty. To access the pantry, visit the Information Desk at University Center. Be sure to have your Clark ID/ID Number. Further resources for food aid can be found here

A final note: almost all efforts to address food insecurity on and around Clark’s campus have been student led. This is not okay, and it should not be the norm. The administration needs to step up. Iit is them – not us – who should be responsible for making sure students get fed, especially in this challenging political and economic climate. While progress has been made, there is so much more to be done.