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Photo: Jonathan Bumble
Photo: Jonathan Bumble

New York City’s “Friendly Fridges” get beautified while serving those in need

The refrigerators have served as vital resources for many facing food insecurity in the Big Apple.

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Thousands of people living in New York are struggling with unemployment and food insecurity caused by the pandemic, but asking for help can be difficult. 

Artists and community activists are well aware of these issues and the stigma about asking for help, so they’ve come up with a temporary solution. 

“Friendly fridges” have been popping up around the city. Neighbors have teamed up with businesses to offer free food, no questions asked. 

Laura Alvarez, an artist and co-founder of BxArts Factory, has painted three of these “friendly fridges” in the Bronx. 

Alvarez knows what it’s like to not be able to afford food. 

“Having something for people to access without having to ask for it is so important. So many people have come by and take a few things or leave things,” she told The Insider. 

Residents around the city, starting in Brooklyn, have begun buying and filling refrigerators with food and placing them on the street for those in need. Artists like Alvarez are volunteering to paint and decorate them. 

Two weeks ago, Alvarez spent several hours working on a fridge in the Bronx's Fieldston neighborhood, which was organized by Selma Raven and Sara Allen. 

Raven told The Insider that they are seeing a lot of essential workers showing up to the fridges for groceries. 

“People don’t have that budget right now,” she said. 

Raven and Allen are only at the fridges for a little under an hour each day to sanitize and fill them, but  often see very grateful visitors dropping by to take and leave items. 

One morning, they saw a mother that was so delighted just to see five bottles of Sunny Delight available. 

The New York Times reported that at least 14 community fridges have popped up across New York City since February.

Not only do the fridges support community members who are struggling with food insecurity, but it also helps reduce food waste from businesses dropping off items they would have otherwise thrown away. 

The “friendly fridges” project in NYC is a great example of how important mutual aid is, especially during a crisis. 

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