We caught up with Fridge founder, Jessie Reardon, to find out what this unique outreach is all about!
Why do you love Buffalo? One word – BuffaLOVE. We are called the City of Good Neighbors for a reason. When the Fridge first hit the streets, I was nervous it wasn’t going to be accepted or taken care of. Within the first few hours, neighbors were helping secure the fridge in our new spot, cleaning the surrounding area, and spreading the word. Now, it is a part of the community!
What is the Fridge all about? The Buffalo Community Fridge is a working fridge that sits on the streets of East Ferry and Welker. It is open 24/7 and holds free nutritious foods for anyone. This is a place where food is not a privilege but a basic human right. Our mission is to build stronger community bonds, eliminate food waste, and address food insecurity in our neighborhood through mutual aid.
What inspired the Buffalo Community Fridge? I originally heard of the idea coming from NYC. I did some research and saw that this concept has been going on all over the world for quite some time, but it is newer to the States. The next day, I posted on social media, asking if anyone had a fridge they didn’t want. I secured a refrigerator that week and got the ball rolling. We found a host location, set up electricity, walked around local markets and businesses to spread the word, and finally plugged the fridge in on October 1st, 2020.
How can people help?
There are so many different things that a person can do to help maintain the fridge.
Each day, someone needs to check in on the fridge to make sure food hasn’t gone bad, that it is clean and working properly. Anyone can do this at any time. We have a volunteer website (communitycanvases.ivolunteer.com) that has a slot for each day where community members can sign up. However, you do not need to sign up in order to visit the fridge. This is as much my project as it is anyone else’s. It would not be possible without everyone's help.
There is also a need for community members to help spread the word about the fridge and to help eliminate food waste. For example, while I am at the farmers market, I mention to vendors that if there is any food left at the end of the day, it can be dropped off at the fridge, giving others access to fresh produce.
Donations! The fridge runs for the community by the community. In order to keep the fridge stocked, we need help from everyone. We accept all food donations except for raw meat or seafood. If someone decides to package food themselves, we ask for it to be labeled with a date and ingredients. We do accept monetary donations on Cash App ($bflocommunityfridge) or Venmo (bflocommunityfridge) but highly encourage people to drop items off themselves and create conversation with community members.
Do you give out recipes with the food? We do not usually have recipe cards available at the fridge. If there is a particular item (butternut squash) that some people are not familiar with cooking, we will put out cards or pieces of paper with instructions on how to prepare it. Chef Claire is a community member who loves to teach cooking and is passionate about this project. She is new to Buffalo but felt inspired by this project and helps in any way that she can. From cooking meals to sharing stories on her social media accounts on how to prepare low cost meals, she is a great resource for our community about how to stay full and nourished.
What's your most sought out item in the fridge? A lot of people seem to ask for water, milk, fruit, and vegetables. We do have a pantry with a few shelves that is connected to the fridge. It holds dry goods as well as sanitary products.
Who painted the art on it? Two local artists painted it: my two friends Grace Butler and Gen O'Connell.
How can someone start setting up their own community fridge? It’s pretty simple. Find a host location and go from there. That seemed to be the biggest barrier to getting the fridge up and running. The fridge needs to be plugged in and running, not blocking a sidewalk, and you must have permission from the building owner to plug it in. We are more than happy to answer any questions and guide you through the process of starting a fridge. We can help in all different avenues. We encourage anyone to reach out with questions or even just for support. There has already been someone who has been inspired from the BCF and started their own fridge on the west side. This fridge is called Big Herk and is located at 167 Herkimer St. The ultimate goal is to have refrigerators all over Buffalo, in every neighborhood, building stronger community bonds and feeding each other.