Walking around New York City or Los Angeles lately, you may have noticed refrigerators on the sidewalks. These are not just abandoned appliances; they are “community fridges”: community-run sources of free food for anyone in need, donated by anyone who can. Across cities, community fridges are tackling local food insecurity.
The Friendly Fridge in Bushwick, photo by Walter Wlodarczyk
A group of New Yorkers began establishing community fridges throughout the boroughs following the devastating impact of Covid-19. It developed into a network of over a dozen sidewalk refrigerators plugged in outside of bodegas and apartment buildings, aimed at fighting food waste. As of today, there are 31 community food fridges in New York City. These refrigerators are filled with a variety of fresh produce daily, helping communities thrive and enabling neighbors to help each other. Many of the fridges, such as one that was set up outside Playground Coffee Shop in Bed-Stuy, have social media accounts providing daily updates on their stocks.
Playground Coffee Shop's community fridge in Bed-Stuy, photo by Jonathan Bumble
Since the community fridge movement materialized on social media in early July, community fridges have sprouted up throughout Los Angeles, in Highland Park, South L.A., Long Beach, Exposition Park, Arlington Heights and in Mid-City. Most of the fridges are painted with bright, colorful artwork, and have “Free food” or “Take what you need, leave what you don’t” in English and Spanish.
Mid-City community fridge, photo by Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times
The community fridge movement is continuing to grow, and anyone is welcome to get involved. If you are interested in donating to a fridge near you, or setting one up in your own neighborhood, the Friendly Fridge in Bushwick has advice regarding power sources, location, visibility and sourcing. If you happen to see a fridge on your next trip to the grocery store, consider buying something extra to drop in the fridge on your way home.