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Miamians are setting up fridges filled with free food for hungry neighbors

These locals are helping fight food insecurity with community fridges in Miami’s struggling neighborhoods.

Virginia Gil
Written by
Virginia Gil

There’s a lot being done to help fight food insecurity in Miami. Restaurants across the city are playing the role of food banks, providing meals for out-of-work employees and essential workers. While Instagram-led initiatives like Adopt a Family are providing for entire households in need. And over in Miami’s hardest-hit, low-income neighborhoods, there’s a new kind of grassroots activism emerging: community fridges.

Already a movement in New York City, these public refrigerators filled with free produce and pantry staples for at-risk neighbors have started popping up in Miami. South Florida aesthetician Sherina Jones placed the first one nearly two weeks ago in Little Haiti. It’s located in front of Roots Collective (5505 NW Seventh Ave)—a clothing store owned by her cousin Isaiah Thomas and is partner Danny Agnew—with a sign that reads “Take what you need, donate what you don’t.” It’s filled with milk, cereal, bread, fruit juices and eggs, among other essential items. There are also turkey sandwiches packed in Ziplock bags, which Jones makes herself reported the Miami Herald. According to the paper, Jones is keeping her fridge stocked with donations she’s receiving on CashApp at $villagepantry as well as through her GoFundMe site.

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Down the road in Overtown, Buddy System Miami set up its own community fridge at Harbo convenience store, where people can both donate healthy groceries and collect items to bring home for their families. “At Buddy System, we’re all about connecting people to sustainable resources and fighting food insecurity, and these community fridges are the next step in providing for our Miami home,” says Eric Trope, vice president of the volunteer-run nonprofit. Members are responsible for monitoring the fridge, taking inventory and restocking it. People interested in donating their time can sign up online on Buddy System’s website. Cash contributions are also welcomed ($BuddySystemMIA) and go toward filling the fridge as well as expanding the project across the county.

Both the Little Haiti and Overtown fridges are located in what’s known as food deserts, low-income areas without a grocery store or fresh-food market within close proximity. Buddy System plans to bring the fridges to another 20 affected neighborhoods in Miami, including Homestead, Cutler Ridge and Miami Gardens. “We’re narrowing it down but we’re looking at the areas without a supermarket and where most of the people rely on public transportation, which living [in Miami] we know is unreliable,” Kelly Mayorga, project manager for Buddy System Miami. Reducing food waste is also part of Buddy System’s mission and integral to expanding its community fridge project. “So much food gets thrown out because it’s not sold by a specific date so if they can give us the food, we can use it for our fridges and keep it from getting tossed out,” says Mallorca. Certainly a win-win for all.

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