Philly Rising: Community Fridge helps ease food insecurity worsened by COVID-19

Philadelphia Community Fridge
Philadelphia Community Fridge Photo credit Courtesy of Philadelphia Community Fridge
By KYW Newsradio

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) -- The instructions are simple: Take what you need, and leave what you don’t. Though the refrigerators on the sidewalk in a couple of South Philly neighborhoods may seem odd to some passersby, they offer free fresh produce and pantry staples to neighbors in need.

“We opened our first fridge in August," said organizer Syona Arora. "Since then, we’ve opened a second one."

Arora says the community fridges, located at 6th and Wharton streets and in front of the Bok Building at 9th and Mifflin streets, are always stocked with food.

"People are always taking food, and we’ve gotten really positive feedback from the neighborhoods," she said.

Arora says, when she was laid off from her job at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, she started getting involved with Mutual Aid Philly, a multilingual community service group. When a friend started a community fridge in Manhattan, she decided to bring the concept to her own community in South Philly.

People are free to take what they need from the fridges. Guidelines have been created to help ensure that the items are safe.

The project is sustained by volunteers and donations, so generosity is literally what keeps the fridges running.

“We have people shop for the two fridges every day. We rotate between fresh and frozen produce, dairy and eggs, and pantry grains like cereal, rice," Arora said. "It’s being cleaned very often, because outside of what we do, there are always neighbors who are stopping by cleaning as well.”

Arora says they’ve raised nearly $10,000 to keep the fridges stocked. Monetary donations are accepted via Cash App and Venmo. Other organizers around the city have started community fridges in their own neighborhoods. Philly has more than a dozen community fridges running now.

“People are taking the food. Volunteers at the fridge, they’ll have conversations with people who really appreciate it. We’re always asking, ‘What do you want in the fridge?’”

With Thanksgiving approaching, Arora said, she’s looking forward to seeing the holiday meals that people are eager to give.

“The food in that fridge is for everyone. Food should be accessible to everyone no matter what.”