Buffalo Community Fridge: Addressing Food Insecurity and Waste
Mel Crotzer, Member of the American Statistical Association
Driving along East Ferry St. past Doris Records, you might notice a curious sight: a decorated refrigerator out on the street. If you hang around, you’ll see people taking food out, and people putting food in.
The Ferry St. fridge is operated by Buffalo Community Fridge (BCF), a mutual aid organization dedicated to addressing food insecurity and food waste across the city of Buffalo. The story of the BCF highlights the community-based concept of making food easily accessible to those in need. Community fridges have sprung up worldwide without much attention.
Community Fridge History
The history of community fridges goes back to Germany in 2012 with an organization called “Foodsharing.” After the success of the first fridge in Germany, this practice quickly spread across the continent to Austria, Switzerland, the UK, Spain and eventually overseas. Community fridges have been set up in New Zealand, Israel, India, the Netherlands, Canada and, of course, in the U.S.
The COVID-19 pandemic put many Americans out of work or left them unable to shop at a grocery store; with this, the need and adoption of community fridges in the U.S accelerated. The original Buffalo Community Fridge, at 286 East Ferry St., started in October 2020, inspired by the fridges in New York City. Since, they’ve spread to Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Chicago, Atlanta, and Boston. The Ferry St. Fridge became a lifeline to local residents following the mass shooting on May 14, 2022 at the Jefferson Ave. Tops Market. Large amounts of donations poured in along with large numbers of volunteers.
BCF operates two other local fridges, one at 45 Jewett Avenue (The Buffalo Love Fridge) and the other at 167 Herkimer St. (The Big Herk Fridge). There are six other fridges located in Buffalo and surrounding areas operated by separate groups of volunteers.
Buffalo Community Fridge operation
“Take what you need; leave what you don’t” — that’s the simple motto of BCF. The organization is a grassroots, volunteer-led mutual aid network dedicated to giving Buffalo communities access to fresh and healthy food. Their mission is to build stronger community bonds, eliminate food waste, and address food insecurity in Buffalo. The fridges are stocked by community members and volunteers. They are open 24/7.
These fridges accept both perishable and non-perishable food items, including fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy products, bottled drinks, canned and dried foods, sauces and condiments, snacks and baked goods.
The fridges will also take pre-made meals that are labeled and dated. Items not needing refrigerated go on a side pantry. Items not accepted include raw meats, seafood, alcohol and opened or expired foods.
The fridges rely on generous contributions from local restaurants, farmers, and organizations, but above all from community members and volunteers. Monetary donations are accepted and used for food purchases and fridge maintenance. The goal is to have a consistent and coordinated schedule for replenishing and maintaining the fridges.
Leaders and volunteers maintain the community fridges by shopping for and stocking food, cleaning the fridges, picking up donations, coordinating bulk donations and even cooking individual pre-made meals. Volunteers and community members coordinate their efforts via the BCF Slack group, which is posted on their website. Daily updates provide information on what is needed and where.
Opportunities for Contributing and Volunteering
Canisius organizations and individuals have an opportunity to help the local community by volunteering, contributing or donating to the BCF. Students, faculty, and staff, can get involved by contacting the BCF and joining their slack group, which can be accessed at buffalocommunityfridges.com.
Joining or contributing to the BCF is a worthwhile project to consider for student organizations. You needn’t be an active volunteer to contribute. Following a party or presentation, any extra bottles of water or snacks can be donated to a local Fridge. The East Ferry and Jewett Ave. Fridges are within walking distance from Canisius. If you know someone dealing with food insecurity, BCF is an option.
Check out their website and learn what is happening in your community regarding food insecurity and consider a donation.