by Sara Mack, Marketing Manager
Community fridges exist in cities around the United States, but until recently Baltimore was missing its own iteration. This week I spoke with the founders of Baltimore’s first community fridge program to learn more about their work, their dedication to sustainability, and how community members can support the cause!
Community fridges are outdoor refrigerators, often accompanied by dry good storage, that provide mutual aid through food and other necessities for community members in a way that is completely accessible to anyone, at any time of the day or night. In Baltimore, this idea was brought to fruition by a pair of full-time university students: Abbey Franklin and Clara Leverenz. Inspired by the sense of community they already felt in Baltimore and recognizing the need for this type of program in order to combat food insecurity, they spent this past summer connecting with existing community fridge programs across the country for advice and inspiration.
Despite facing challenges inherent to starting a grassroots community organization, Abbey and Clara were able to find a host location and electrical source for their first location, develop a network of volunteers, run fundraisers (largely through the art community within Baltimore!), and collect donations that ultimately made it possible for them to launch their community fridge in Greenmount West.
Throughout this process, Abbey and Clara recognized that battling food insecurity is inherently linked to the zero waste movement. Abbey and Clara built their community fridge program on zero waste ideals based on their personal dedication to sustainability. They knew community fridges could spread the good word about how important it is to both reduce food waste and rejuvenate local soils. In addition to reducing waste, composting in communities experiencing food insecurity provides the opportunity to increase local fresh produce production through an improvement in soil quality. It’s a win-win!
It was this dedication to sustainability woven throughout their mission that led the Bmore Community Fridge team to reach out to Compost Crew. With our bin in place next to the fridge, produce that begins to spoil is moved to the compost bin by volunteers. When I spoke with Abbey and Clara this week, they expressed that even though it is an expense, they feel that composting is more than worth it because it provides an opportunity to help educate the community about the importance of composting — on top of also reducing waste and improving the agricultural opportunities in the area.
Although Abbey and Clara are currently focused on maintaining their location at Greenmount West, there is potential for expansion in Baltimore as there is now a blueprint for how this type of mutual aid project can look in the city. For anyone interested in donating or volunteering to this amazing cause: you can reach the team directly via Instagram. Volunteers check the fridge frequently in order to clean, organize new items, compost spoiled items, and drop off new goods, so there are always things to be done!