In the past few weeks, as COVID-19 infects record numbers of Californians, fridges are appearing across the city of Los Angeles, offering free food to the needy. Part of a growing mutual aid network called Los Angeles Community Fridges, the refrigerators are hosted and run by businesses, organisations and individuals, and supported by a network across Los Angeles. The project has been inspired by similar efforts in New York City and seeks to empower communities, feed people and eliminate food waste.
Speaking to the Los Angeles Times, Julia Lebow, a 25-year-old organiser with L.A. Community Fridges, said,
“Food scarcity is a myth, and our communities deserve to be fed.”
There are no limits to how much food people can take or how often. The fridges are anonymous, open 24/7, and not policed or regulated.
Marina Vergara, a 31-year-old organiser with L.A. Community Fridges, said,
“A lot of people don’t seek out aid because of their [immigration] status. There’s no doubt in my mind. Also, there’s so much pride that people have, and seeking assistance strips that away.”
Since they first appeared on Instagram on July 3, community fridges have cropped up in different locations and most are brightly painted and hard to miss, with signs such as: “Free food” or “Take what you need, leave what you don’t” in English and Spanish. A Highland Park fridge hosted by Pair O Dice Giftshop has a door painted in warm, inviting earth tones, behind which are packets of Abuelita hot chocolate, cartons of whole milk and almond milk and seasonal stone fruit. Someone had set up a mini-pantry at its side that was stacked with dried goods.
“This is a really special moment because of coronavirus and because of this moment of upheaval and revolution. I think a lot of people are really looking for a way to be involved and better their communities in particular,” said Lebow.