"Take what you need, leave what you don’t." This is the sign located on the door of the public and free fridge that is parked in front of one of the many bodegas in Harlem. The fridge has been there since June when artist and activist Sade Boyewa El decided to replicate an experiment already underway in Brooklyn, an initiative by A New World In Our Hearts, a collective of anarchist-inspired community organisers. She contacted them, they got her the fridge and she then placed it and filled it with the first groceries.
Before her, it had been Selma Raven's turn in the Bronx and, before and after, many more. Today there are dozens of them, all in different cities. The concept is simple and it is the same that is causing the phenomenon to multiply exponentially in the United States: the pandemic has worsened situations of social and economic hardship within communities and neighbourhoods and not all of them are well enough organised to cope with this difficult situation. And this is where the Community Fridges come into play: a pantry of fresh and high-quality and sustainable food (something the organisers deeply cared for, raising the quality for health and wellbeing issues), provided by all members of the community who consider it useful and open to everyone's needs. The project has a dual function: to feed the local community and minimise food waste at the same time. Something that is far from being a secondary problem in large cities, especially if you think that, in New York alone, about two million people live in a state of food insecurity and about 30 per cent of the food ready to be eaten is wasted, according to the New York Times.