On Free99Fridge’s website, “FOR THE PEOPLE FROM THE PEOPLE” pops out and sums up the organization’s aim.
Free99Fridge isn’t a charity, but a mutual aid network. Mutual aid is different from a charity in that it is communal and places focus not solely on donors and receivers but emphasize cooperatively working to meet community needs.
Additionally, Free99Fridge doesn’t decide who is or isn’t in need but makes their resources open to all.
Community fridges have a two-fold aim. Not only are they built to fight hunger, but also to reduce food waste.
The UN Environmental Programme estimates that the US produces 133 billion pounds of edible food annually. By moving food or other supplies that would end up in dumpsters, the community fridge movement reduces unnecessary waste and helps those in need.
According to a Vox article, not only was food insecurity nationally increasing in 2020, but so were community fridges, and on July 20, 2020, Latisha Springer started Free99Fridge.
Their Instagram boasts over 22k followers, and the group has effectively raised and reallocated tens of thousands of dollars.
Located on the property of private businesses throughout Atlanta, the fridges provide fresh produce,prepared meals,hygiene products, baby diapers and pet food. However, a lot goes on behind the scenes.
On their Instagram, Free99Fridge posts grocery hauls paid for by the community. Various businesses and individuals in the city donate food either brought directly to the fridges or prepared into ready-made meals by other community members.
This month, Free99Fridge has taken its next major step. The Grocery Spot has opened its doors through the support of Free99Fridge and the community.
Opened from 11 A.M. to 7 P.M. on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, the grocery store operate on a pay-what-you-can model. Models like these encourage those who can afford to pay to do so to support community members who can’t pay to grocery shop for free.
Maintaining such spaces is not easy, though. The fridges require daily maintenance to ensure cleanliness, fresh food and removal of any unsafe or unusable donations.
Receiving and distributing larger donations requires people, time and transportation. Gracefully, the community proves again and again that they are more than willing to meet the demands of maintaining the mutual aid network.
Their Instagram does daily updates featuring empty fridges in need of food.
Community members often report other members waiting by empty fridges or in lines in hopes of getting some food.
While the need is great and has grown since the pandemic started, Free99Fridge continues to grow and provide to people in need.
Interestingly, Free99Fridge emphasizes they consider Free99Fridge a social experiment that shows what can happen if we all come together and do a little.
If interested in donating time, money or supplies, please check out their website, free99fridge.com, or their Instagram, @free99fridge. Both detail what to donate, what to not donate and alternative ways to help.