If you follow local news and/or are active on social media, you’ve probably heard of Albany native, Jammella Anderson, and the fundraising she’s been doing since the Black Lives Matter movement really started to pick up steam.
Community activist work and raising money for social justice causes close to her heart is not new for Anderson, who is a yoga teacher and doula as well as an activist. It’s something she has been doing for a number of years, actually, but one thing she really wanted to get involved in trying to address was food injustice, which is how the Free Food Fridge Albany Project was born.
Anderson looked into other programs and organizations that have been working to satisfy hunger in the Capital Region, particularly in inner-city communities. But what she found was a deficit for Black and brown people; most notably, many of the current programs are not Black-owned. She felt that they weren’t quite hitting the mark within the communities that needed their services most.
So she returned to her research to find a way to amplify what people were already doing. When she heard about the “Free Food Fridge” project underway in New York City, she thought: “What is this crazy idea that’s working; and how can I bring that to Albany?”
If you aren’t familiar with the concept of a free fridge – it’s basically exactly how it sounds. There’s a fridge, but it’s outside, and it’s filled with food, and the food is available free of charge to anyone who’s hungry and in need. No questions asked.
Food insecurity was a problem in New York prior to the pandemic, but the virus and the economic fallout is has wrought, has exacerbated the issue tenfold.
A lot more people are seeking assistance in feeding themselves and their families – some of them have never been in this position before, and it’s hard. There’s a stigma attached to asking for help, and that’s where the free fridge movement – or “friendly fridges“, as some people call them comes in. You don’t have to ask anyone for anything, you simply show up and take what you need on the honor system.
Anderson started reaching out to local farms and restaurants to see if they wanted to get involved, and the answer was a resounding “yes”. The project actually addresses multiple issues, as it acts as a (preliminary) solution to food waste, and also helps people in need.
And it is arguably more accessible than other projects, because it’s free.
Organizations and companies all over are reaching out to help support the program. Clark House Hospitality hosted a fundraiser earlier this month with 10 percent of all sales from Little Pecks, Lucas Confectionery, Donna’s Italian, and 22 2nd Street Wine Co. going towards the Free Food Fridge Albany effort. Honest Weight Food Co-Op was the sponsor of the first fridge, which is stationed at the Albany Free School at 8 Elm St.
So maybe this sounds intriguing and you’re wondering how you can help? Well, you’re in luck, because there are options.
First, donate. You can send donations via PayPal at firstname.lastname@example.org. Money goes toward purchasing food and saving up for future fridges so the program can expand.
Second, host a fridge. It’s as simple as running a lead cord out your window, and Anderson says it costs on average $22.18 a day in electricity. (A LOT of people have already been stepping up to do this!)
Third, if you’re an artist, you’re needed to paint the fridges to make them beautiful.
Fourth, you can sponsor a fridge. This is different from hosting; sponsors pay for the fridge. The newer, the better. (There’s already been a lot of support in this department as well!)
And, lastly, but most importantly – this is for all you purveyors, and restaurant and farm owners out there – you can donate food.
The state Department of Health requires that the fridge folks know exactly where everything that’s inside their fridges comes from. So, for now, the donated food needs to come from a farm, or a service kitchen (meaning that kitchen is already legally allowed to produce food public consumption).
Unfortunately, the community can’t donate…yet. Remember, we’re still in the middle of a pandemic, so there are a lot of health and safety concerns to manage.
Something to remember as Anderson continues her fight against local food insecurity: it is important that all the food in the fridges is ready-made.
Many of the community members who are in need of assistance are not only food insecure, but also home insecure. That means they may not have a place to cook themselves a nutritious and stomach and soul-filling meal. This is why restaurant involvement is so important.
The Free Food Fridge Albany project has only one fridge so far, but with the support and donations already received, there are many more on the horizon.