By Serina Haynes
I first started noticing “community fridges” being established in Brooklyn through social media during the COVID-19 mandatory stay-at-home orders and the rise of the BLM movement.
The idea was simple; a refrigerator of donated food free for anyone that needed it. East Hollywood established theirs, making the opportunity to help and be helped at an accessible level to the community. Anyone could walk up, grab some eggs and ready-made food, or restock the fridge with the excess in their own fridge at home.
It brought together a scattered community in a brilliant way to meet the needs of fellow community members while practicing social distancing and avoiding food waste. The East Hollywood community fridge is connected to the Santa Monica Grocery store and has partnerships with local restaurants and food pantries such as Quesadillas Tepexco and Polo’s Pantry.
While many people were losing their jobs, with some ineligible for unemployment benefits, the community fridges offered an unmanned, 24-hour “take what you need, when you need” opportunity with no judgment, where those that needed food didn’t need to fill out paperwork, submit tax documents, or wait on eligibility approval.
East Hollywood restaurants impacted during Covid donated frozen food and perishables from their fridge or worked to stock the fridge with to-go boxes of ready to eat food, while other businesses in the community donated dry goods and produce.
The fridges were also open for donations from individuals, too, who made sure the fridges were kept clean, orderly, and stocked. Through the midst of a pandemic and a revolution, it was beautiful to see a small community come together for those within it – even the marginalized who were normally forgotten during times of crises, like the homeless.
The East Hollywood community fridge expanded from just-food and drinks to offer household and essential items, such as masks, hand sanitizers, batteries, making sure to meet the Covid-era needs of the community. As quickly as items are taken, they are restocked. The East Hollywood community fridge’s Instagram, @easthollywoodfridge, has the caption “SOLIDARITY NOT CHARITY,” reaffirming the sentiment “We are all in this together,” for all within the East Hollywood community.