By Serina Haynes
(HOLLYWOOD, Calif.) — I first started noticing “community fridges” being established in Brooklyn, NY, through social media during the COVID-19 mandatory stay-at-home orders and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement.
The idea was simple; a refrigerator full of donated food free for anyone who needs it. East Hollywood established theirs, making the opportunity to help and be helped accessible to the community. Anyone could walk up, grab some eggs and ready-made meals, 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 offer an unmanned, 24-hour “take what you need, when you need” opportunity with no judgment. And anyone in need doesn’t have to fill out paperwork, submit tax documents, or wait for eligibility approval in order to get food.
East Hollywood restaurants impacted during COVID donate frozen food and perishables from their fridge, or stock the fridge with to-go boxes of ready-to-eat meals, while other businesses in the community donate dry goods and produce.
As quickly as items are taken, they are restocked. The fridges are open for donations from individuals, too, who also make sure the fridges are kept clean, orderly and well stocked.
Through the midst of a pandemic and a revolution, it is beautiful to see a small community come together for those within it – even the marginalized and homeless, who are normally forgotten during times of crises.
The East Hollywood community fridge expanded from just food and drinks to offer household and essential items, such as masks, hand sanitizer and batteries, making sure to meet the COVID-era needs of the community.
The East Hollywood community fridge’s Instagram, @easthollywoodfridge, has the caption “Solidarity Not Charity,” reaffirming the sentiment that we are all in this together.