The Community Fridges of Philadelphia: Where Anyone Can Access Food Items
Community fridges are refrigerators located in public spaces, where anyone is free to either take or donate food items. The popularity of community fridges has grown rapidly in the past decade or so, and they have become even more widely used in the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic. These fridges are intended to help fight food insecurity in a grassroots way.
Philadelphia is home to over 30 community fridges, most of which are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Approximately 1 in 5 Philadelphia families struggle with food insecurity, and these fridges have the potential to make a major difference. Let’s take a look at where some of Philadelphia’s community fridges are located, who is in charge of them, how they work, and how you can start your own community fridge.
South Philadelphia Community Fridge South Philly Community Fridge is a volunteer-based organization with the goal of combatting food insecurity by helping all Philadelphia residents access fresh and healthy food. The organization has formed partnerships with local grocers and restaurants, which provide prepared foods, produce, and pantry staples that would have otherwise been thrown away.
This organization owns and operates four community fridges in South Philly at:
1149 South 9th Street (partnering with Fridges and Family)
1902 South 9th Street
1200 South 21st Street
2100 South 24th Street
The Open Collective Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, fiscally sponsors the South Philadelphia Community Fridge. Germantown Community Fridges The Germantown Community Fridges program is a mutual aid resource that aims to fight food insecurity and food waste across Philadelphia with a special focus on the city’s Germantown neighborhood. Like most Philadelphia community fridges, the Germantown fridges are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Unlike traditional food banks, the Germantown fridges welcome both perishable and non-perishable items.
The organization also accepts donations, 100% of which are re-invested into the community fridges and the Germantown neighborhood community. These donations are used to purchase groceries and fridge cleaning supplies. Germantown Community Fridges also has the following types of volunteer opportunities:
Checking and cleaning fridges
Making sandwiches to leave at fridge locations
Picking up donations
Grocery shopping for fridge supplies
Stocking the fridge with home-cooked meals
Outreach to companies for regular or one-time donations
The two Germantown Community Fridges are located at:
20 West Armat Street
19 East High Street
Mama Tee Fridge Mama Tee is an organization that is dedicated to combatting food insecurity, ending food deserts, and encouraging the socially responsible redevelopment of Philadelphia neighborhoods. There are currently over a dozen Mama Tee community fridges in the Philadelphia area:
Ambassador: 635 W. Girard Ave. (N. Philly/Fishtown)
Franny Lou's Porch: 2400 Coral St. (Kensington)
Triple Bottom Brewing: 915 Spring Garden St. (West Poplar)
Stinger Square Park: 3200 Dickinson St. (Grays Ferry)
Castellino's Italian Market: 1255 E. Palmer St. (Fishtown)
Alchemy Hair Lab: 2401 E Letterly St. (Kensington)
308 N 39th St. (West Philly)
Caribe Towers: 3231 N 2nd St, 2 Fridges (Fairhill)
Opportunity Towers I & II: 1717 W. Hunting Park Ave., 2 Fridges (Nicetown)
Opportunity Towers III: 5524 Haverford Ave. (West Philly)
The Gables Cafe: 4600 Woodland Ave. (West Philly)
Community Partnership School: 3033 W. Glenwood Ave. (Strawberry Mansion/Brewerytown)
234 Winona St. (Germantown)
Fairmount Bicycles: 2015 Fairmount Ave.
Walnut Street Cafe: 2929 Walnut Street (West Philly)
Porcos: 2204 Washington Ave. (Point Breeze)
In addition, Mama Tee recently opened the Mama Tee Pop-Up Grocery Store at 1703 Montrose Street in South Philly. This store receives regular monthly donations from Whole Foods Market, and this food is then used to stock community fridges.
Coral Street Fridge The Coral Street Community Fridge is run by an organization called the Kensington Community Food Co-Op, which is a member-owned grocery store in the city’s Kensington neighborhood. The community fridge is located right outside of the co-op. The organization hopes that the Coral Street Fridge can help fight against food insecurity in North Philadelphia and is open 24/7 for donations and taking food. The Coral Street Fridge accepts most food items, except for leftovers, uncooked meat and seafood, unlabeled or expired products, and alcoholic beverages.
Tips for Starting a Community Fridge While community fridges have become much more popular in the past couple of years, there are still plenty of Philadelphia neighborhoods that could use one. Here are a few quick tips for those who are considering starting their own community fridge:
Establish relationships in the community.
Find a host for the community fridge and outline an agreement, including who will pay for electricity and who is liable for costs and upkeep.
Search for a fridge and determine how it will be stocked.
Develop a maintenance plan to keep the fridge in good condition.
Remain dedicated to operating the fridge and fighting against food insecurity.