Sunday, February 28, 2021

Community fridge comes to Herkimer Street

 By Liberty Darr

The community fridge movement is one that is sweeping the nation and has now made its way to the West Side.

Buffalo received its first community fridge at 257 East Ferry St.  over a year ago that has since grown into more than just a fridge, but rather a community necessity. This was a great way to encourage the City of Good Neighbors mentality that has now grown into the West Side with the opening of a community fridge at 167 Herkimer St., known as Big Herk Fridge.

Big Herk Fridge
      This movement encourages community activism while also aiding in food scarcity around the globe. The main goal of the fridge is to help those facing nutritional insecurity by providing easy and 24/7 access to free, fresh, and nutritious food. The fridge is accessible to take what you need, but also leave what you don’t. This way of community involvement goes far beyond just donating monetary funds to already existing food agencies. This citizen-led initiative is shown to result in a more engaged and caring city.

Buffalo joins nearly 200 other fridges across the United States, and more around the globe, according to Freedge, a network of resources and information for community fridge owners around the globe.

Lourdes Vera, owner of the Big Herk Fridge, first heard about community fridges while living in Brooklyn from an organization called In Our Hearts that was taking the community fridge movement to a whole new level.

Upon moving back to the West Side during the COVID-19 pandemic, Vera knew that her community would benefit from a community fridge.

“I had an old refrigerator, and I asked my landlord if I could put it up. Luckily, my porch had an outlet right outside, so it was pretty easy,” Vera said. “I have always been really into food justice. I just love the mutual aid aspect of the community fridge. Once I put the fridge up, I was so surprised that I immediately had volunteers.”

While a lot of volunteers made their way from the East Side fridge, there were many who had utilized Instagram  to find the fridge.

 “We live in a society that is so alienated, especially with the pandemic,” Vera said. “There are so many people who speak so many different languages, and the community fridge helps people to cross those barriers and meet neighbors in a safe way.”

While volunteers do a multitude of things like helping to clear out the fridge and organizing what is inside, volunteers also are those that drop off the food and make donations. Volunteer Emilia Fanelli was able to shed some light on what volunteering looks like for her.

“While I have volunteered for different organizations in the past, the community fridge is one that is easy and makes a world of difference,” Fanelli said. “Every time I go to the grocery store to shop for the week, I buy one or two things to donate to the fridge. It’s really that simple.”