Ending food deserts one fridge at a time

Illustration by Marcus Jefferson

All across America, children and adults in lower-income communities struggle to find meals due to lack of affordable supermarkets, community food banks and fresh food shops.

In fact, in Georgia alone 1 in 6 children are currently facing food insecurity, according to Feeding America.

This becomes alarming when put into perspective: Atlanta faces a food insecurity rate of 18.5% compared to the national average of 12.5%, according to Atlanta Studies.

Food deserts are an issue that affects many people across the U.S. due to a lack of adequate resources and support for underprivileged communities. 

Metro Atlanta is one area that is greatly affected by the inaccessibility of fresh produce. As a result, organizations such as FREE99Fridge have taken it upon themselves to facilitate food resources through community fridges and sponsors’ help.

Community fridges are free food resources that are restocked by residents of the community or local sponsors.

Founded by Latisha Springer, FREE99 aims to provide food and foster a greater sense of community by providing a space for people in need to have nearby food at no cost. 

“Free99Fridge is the result of a simple idea,” Springer said. “Eating healthy [and] daily meals shouldn’t be a privilege. This is not charity, but rather a mutual aid initiative.” 

The organization aims to establish seven community fridges, stretching through Metro Atlanta. Last week, FREE99 hosted a launch party to unveil its first community fridge, located in the West End.

The fridges partially rely on the community for upkeep and maintenance. 

Residents are encouraged to help create, clean and stock the fridges because, according to their Instagram page, “community fridges can’t exist without community.”

Community members can donate fresh produce, breads, pre-packaged meals, non perishables and sealed dairy products. 

Donors should refrain from leaving raw meat, alcohol, leftovers and “anything you wouldn’t feed to your family.”

The efforts of volunteers and sponsors also play a role in making sure they stay restocked and fully functional.

“Our community fridges are stocked and maintained by volunteers, growers and local businesses who see value in supporting their community,” Springer said.

The local support has aided in the success of this program, and the location has played a crucial role in deciding what communities need resources.

Although not all the fridges have been officially established, the communities have been instrumental in providing feedback and backing the initiative.

“The community has been very accepting and encouraging of our project,” Springer said. “It seems that Atlanta has wanted this for our city, so we’re happy to be a small part of making it happen.”

The public support has provided motivation and created a sense of anticipation in this growing movement to end food deserts.

As this movement prepares to launch fully, they rely on donations, volunteer work and online engagement to get their message across.

“We are a solution-oriented collective aiming to build up a community and end food disparities in Atlanta, one fridge at a time,” Springer said.