Fort Worth’s first community fridge program helps serve vulnerable neighborhoods

first_imgLife in Fort Worth A fox’s tail: the story of TCU’s campus foxes Twitter Haeven Gibbons + posts Welcome TCU Class of 2025 Twitter Haeven Gibbons Linkedin Facebook Previous articleHoroscope: April 28, 2021Next articleAcademic and writing resources help play a role in TCU’s retention rate Haeven Gibbons Grains to grocery: One bread maker brings together farmers and artisans at locally-sourced store TCU places second in the National Student Advertising Competition, the highest in school history Welcome TCU Class of 2025 printCommunity fridge dataThe story behind the fridgeHow Tarrant Area Food Bank is stepping up tooNew organization fights hunger in Fort Worth’s most vulnerable neighborhoods By Haeven GibbonsThe pandemic and its subsequent economic upheaval prompted one Fort Worth native to adopt a creative approach in nourishing people living in some of Tarrant County’s hungriest ZIP codes. Kendra Richardson started Fort Worth’s first community fridge program, Funky Town Fridge, to give people access to food from refrigerators stocked by the community.The Southside fridge is filled with fresh produce and water. (Photo courtesy of @funkytownfridge Instagram)The Southside fridge is filled with fresh produce and water. (Photo courtesy of @funkytownfridge Instagram)Kendra Richardson poses in front of the Poly fridge. (Photo: Haeven Gibbons)Kendra Richardson poses in front of the Poly fridge. (Photo: Haeven Gibbons)“I think the fridges are great mechanisms in our community to help feed those who may not ask for help or food in other ways,” said Lauren Selking, a Fort Worth citizen who donates to the fridge at least once a month. Richardson opened three fridges, each in Fort Worth zip code areas with limited access to grocery stores.Fort Worth locals donated all three fridges to Richardson. The fridges look like they could be found in a kitchen, except they have all been decked out by local artists. Kendra Richardson talks about why and how she started Funky Town Fridge. The fridge is housed inside of a wooden shed to protect it from weather. There’s also space for non-perishable food items and non-food items like hand sanitizer, toilet paper, pet supplies, baby formula and hygiene products. In early July, Richardson saw stories about fridges in Houston and New Orleans. She started to search for her own fridges and reach out to possible host buildings to start her own community fridge project. By Sept. 26, 2020, Fort Worth’s fridges were open.  The Southside fridge is located at 3144 Bryan Avenue. (Photo courtesy of @funkytownfridge Instagram)The Southside fridge is located at 3144 Bryan Avenue. (Photo courtesy of @funkytownfridge Instagram)The Poly fridge is located at 2308 Vaughn Blvd. (Photo courtesy of @funkytownfridge Instagram)The Poly fridge is located at 2308 Vaughn Blvd. (Photo courtesy of @funkytownfridge Instagram)The Como fridge is located at 5705 Wellesley Ave. (Photo courtesy of @funkytownfridge Instagram).The Como fridge is located at 5705 Wellesley Ave. (Photo courtesy of @funkytownfridge Instagram).“I knew that this was something that Fort Worth needed,” Richardson said. “I wanted to show what action looked like. I created an Instagram to try to start get the word out.”She placed the first fridge at 3144 Bryan Ave. in the Southside neighborhood. The others are in Poly and Como. “There are no grocery stores anywhere in these neighborhoods where I now have fridges,” Richardson said.Getting startedIt took some time for people to understand how the fridges worked.  “The concept is hard for people to grasp. You’re not used to seeing a refrigerator outside with a shed,” Richardson said. “I understand, I get it, but now more and more people are understanding.” Once people started to understand the concept, her vision came to life. People started donating fridges, offering their building to be used as a host and donating food.“It kind of took legs of its own and grew,” said Richardson. “I think now people see how dire the need is, and I think now the community is more committed to keeping them filled. We’re learning as we go.”Photo 1: Danny Dye places a donation of pulled pork and a loaf of bread into a refrigerator on the street in the Coconut Grove neighborhood of Miami, Monday, Dec. 7, 2020 (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)Photos 2: Beans and onions are just a few of the non-perishable items in the Poly fridge. (Haeven Gibbons)While community fridge programs have been around since 2015, more community fridge programs have popped up across the United States since the beginning of the pandemic, according to the Freedge database. Freedge is an international network that was established in 2014 to promote and support community fridges. Freedge keeps track of community fridge programs around the world. The database shows 325 community fridges worldwide, with 169 located in the United States alone. Of the 325 fridges logged, 96 of them show the fridge installation date, with 42 installed between 2020 and 2021.“We’re not just giving people anything that we just don’t want,” Richardson said. “They’re getting good quality food from Whole Foods, Sprouts, Central Market and everywhere else.” People can bring fresh produce, bottled water, butter, yogurt, milk, frozen meat and eggs. But community members should avoid putting items in the fridge like raw meat, homemade meals, soda and any non-nutritious food.  “My sister Mallory and I have donated to the fridge six times now,” said Fort Worth resident Melany Krazer. “We try to drop off once a week to once every two weeks. It depends on if we get enough goodies together or not that week.”Krazer said she learned about the fridge from her sister, who saw it on Instagram. To keep the fridges full, Richardson posts on Instagram to let the community know they need donations. “Kendra does a great job shouting out to the community when the fridges are in need, and it seems the community always comes through in one form or another,” said Krazer. “It does seem that the community does a great job helping to keep them all full. I have seen nonprofits in the area, restaurants and small businesses step up and contribute too.”Richardson posts on social media to let the community know when a fridge needs to be filled. (Photo courtesy @funkytownfridge Instagram)Richardson posts on social media to let the community know when a fridge needs to be filled. (Photo courtesy @funkytownfridge Instagram)Just hours after posting that the fridge needed to be filled, Richardson posted an update showing the results. (Photo courtesy @funkytownfridge Instagram)Just hours after posting that the fridge needed to be filled, Richardson posted an update showing the results. (Photo courtesy @funkytownfridge Instagram)The community is the grassroots of the project; anyone can stock the fridge at any time and anyone can take food whenever they need it. While Richardson and her team of volunteers check in on the fridges to make sure it is being filled with healthy food, it is up to the community to keep it full.  “I can’t come and fill the fridge every 30 minutes. But even if I did that wouldn’t be sustainable. I am trying to sustain this thing,” Richardson said.The Krazer sisters have donated produce, almond milk, breads, canned goods, shelf-stable items like mac and cheese, tuna and spaghetti, fridge items, frozen goods, drinks, cereals, shampoos and conditioners, hygiene items and books.“We always help and donate when we can,” Krazer said. “Mutual aid is a very neat concept because it isn’t necessarily donating, it’s giving what you can and taking what you need. You don’t have to jump through hoops to receive any items – it’s just there when you need it. I love that.”Melany Krazer took a photo of the products she collected for and donated to Funky Town Fridge. (Photo courtesy: Melany Krazer)The fridges make food easily accessible. Since the fridges are located in the neighborhoods where people need food, they do not have to worry about transportation to get to the food or about arriving at a certain time to pick it up. “I believe they [the fridges] are serving so many members in our community who may not know where else to go,” Selking said. “We actually saw a gentleman when we were dropping food off and he was so kind and thankful. It feels good to know you are helping provide nutritional food for those that may not have access to it.”Photo 1: Volunteers stock a refrigerator with free food for people in need in Los Angeles on July 20, 2020. (AP Photo/Aron Ranen)Photo 2: Volunteers pass out information on the COVID-19 vaccine as people receive food from the 24-hour community fridge at the community center Mixteca during the coronavirus pandemic, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021, in the Brooklyn borough of New York. (AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez)Anyone can open a community fridge if they find a local business to agree to let the fridge be placed outside their building. The host building provides the electricity to keep the fridge running. Some community fridge programs are a part of larger networks like Los Angeles Community Fridges (LACF) and  A New World In Our Hearts NYC, but others are fully run by individuals and their team of volunteers.  The story behind the fridgeRichardson, who teaches high school world geography, grew up in the Stop 6 neighborhood where she constantly saw people around her in need. “The more that people learn about the fridges, it brings awareness to how these communities have been suffering in Fort Worth,” Richardson said. “I started the fridge because there were already black communities in Fort Worth that were suffering from racism and then the pandemic hit, so I wanted to make sure that I did something to help ease the burden or make it a little bit better.”Richardson said it’s not just about providing the community with food, it is about making a lasting difference in these neighborhoods and addressing the systems that allow hunger to persist.“There was always a need,” Richardson said. “People still don’t have jobs; people are still living in poverty. All this was way before the pandemic. The pandemic just made it worse or it either highlighted what people are going through.”Now that there is an accessible resource in these communities, Richardson said the food is gone all the time.How Tarrant Area Food Bank is stepping up tooLarger food banks in Fort Worth have also stepped up during the pandemic to help ease the burden that underserved communities face.“In 2020 we actually became aware that there’s places in Tarrant County – there are certain zip codes that we’re not servicing as well as we could be,” said Tarrant Area Food Bank’s (TAFB) digital marketing specialist, Whitney Atkinson.Tarrant Area Food Bank has been working with their partner agencies to reassess where to place food distributions so that the people who need them the most can access food easily.“For the people who have never had access to these resources before, we educate them about what we can offer them and then we put those services in places that are accessible to them in the future,” Atkinson said. “We’re going to be servicing Tarrant County a lot more well-roundedly.”While the pandemic allowed TAFB to re-access the allocation of their resources, the number of people they served at distributions skyrocketed, reaching a 40% increase.Experts say the increase is no surprise.Photo 1: Soldier from the U.S. Army 36th Infantry Division help distribute turkeys and other holiday food items during a Tarrant Area Food Bank mobile pantry event in Arlington, Texas, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)Photo 2: Volunteer Jill Erny, right, of Coppell, Texas, offers cartons of eggs to a driver. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)Photo 3: Volunteer Allison Clark of Fort Worth, Texas, helps guide thousands of vehicles into a parking lot outside of AT&T Stadium during a Tarrant Area Food Bank mobile pantry distribution event in Arlington, Texas, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)“People act shocked by what’s happened, but it’s utterly predictable given the vast inequality of wealth and the low wages,” said the CEO of Hunger Free America, Joel Berg. “Even before the pandemic, there were tens of millions of Americans who just didn’t earn enough to get all the food they needed.”The rise in people who are seeking assistance for the first time are mostly people who were on the edge of hunger before the pandemic hit, according to Berg.“We’ve had a whole lot of first-time users that are depending on us to bring food,” said the TAFB’s director of operations, Val Aguilar.TAFB’s mega mobile distributionTAFB started its first-ever mega mobile distribution in September. The food bank normally relies on its partner agencies to distribute food, but most of these smaller agencies had to close temporarily due to COVID-19. Every Friday, cars lined up by the thousands to wait for their box of food to be placed in the trunk of their car.“It’s a lot to come out here to stay a long time, but it’s what you have to do to survive,” said a woman who attended the distribution on February 12. She had been waiting in line for four hours.Some of the clients at the distribution said they have struggled with hunger before, but never to this capacity.“We are struggling right now. We are enduring something that we have never endured before. By coming here, it allows us to make several meals that we wouldn’t have,” an attendee said.Tarrant Area Food Bank is ending its mega mobile distribution at the end of May. The majority of their partner agencies (85%) have been able to fully reopen, resuming mobile distribution of their own. As many of these agencies have reopened, TAFB has seen the lines at its distributions shorten.Mobile distributions by partner agencies happen every day of the week except Sundays.“No one organization or one sector has the capacity to end hunger by themselves,” said the founder and executive director of the Baylor Collaborative on Hunger and Poverty, Jeremy Everett.Local organizations, large and small, are doing their part to address hunger in Tarrant County.  “As long as these hosts allow them (the community fridges) to be here, they’ll be here, and they’ll service every community that they’re in. I can rest in the fact knowing that I did something to create some kind of change in the world to make other people better, not just myself,” Richardson said.Photo 1: Volunteers sort and box food at Tarrant Area Food Bank. (Photo: Haeven Gibbons)Photo 2: Kendra Richardson and one of her volunteers organize the canned goods at the Poly community fridge. (Photo: Haeven Gibbons)TopBuilt with Shorthand Haeven Gibbons Image Magazine: Spring 2021 NewsCommunityCOVID-19In-depth reportingMultimediaThe 109The 109 NewsTop StoriesFort Worth’s first community fridge program helps serve vulnerable neighborhoodsBy Haeven Gibbons – April 28, 2021 917 Linkedin ReddIt Haeven Gibbons Haeven Gibbons World Oceans Day shines spotlight on marine plastic pollution Vintage fever: Fort Worth residents and vintage connoisseurs talk about their passion for thrifting ReddIt RELATED ARTICLESMORE FROM AUTHOR Facebooklast_img read more