A volunteer restocks a “freedge” in Brooklyn, New York.
The United States is one of the wealthiest countries in the world. Yet, many Americans still struggle to feed themselves and their families. In communities across the country, hungry Americans use food banks to meet their needs. Food banks collect donations of food from businesses and individuals. They then give this food to those in need.
In recent years, the COVID-19 pandemic has made matters of food insecurity, or not having enough to eat, even worse. Thousands of American workers lost jobs during the pandemic, growing the numbers of hungry Americans. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that about 14 million Americans struggle with food insecurity. The increase in demand for help has overwhelmed many community food banks.
However, a new tool in the fight against hunger has helped take some pressure off overwhelmed food banks. Free fridges, or “freedges,” are popping up in communities around the country. Volunteers stock these outdoor refrigerators with food, including fruits and vegetables. Food is often taken as quickly as it is left. So, in many communities, freedges need to be restocked daily.
While freedges are small, compared to food banks, they are mighty. Anyone in the community can come to the freedge and take what they need. The only rule is that if you take something, leave something (if you can). Another advantage freedges have is that they never close. They can be accessed by those in need 24-hours a day, 7-days a week.
While freedges won’t solve the problem of food insecurity in the United States, they are helping to feed the hungry. In addition, some freedge locations are now also giving out other needed items, like sleeping bags, tents, and medical supplies. Freedges are just one example of communities pulling together to help those in need.