Letter to the editor: Put extra meal points to use filling community fridges
As the school year comes to an end and many WU students prepare to pack up and move elsewhere for the summer, students with remaining meal points in their Compass Cash accounts have an opportunity to put them to good use. In recent years, community fridges have popped up in various cities across America, notably Seattle, Portland and Oakland. The movement has gained additional interest throughout the pandemic, which has [caused a steep rise in food insecurity particularly in BIPOC communities]. Inspired by Portland’s free fridge movement, Salem’s most prominent free fridge organizers, Free Fridge Salem (@freefridgesalem on Instagram) began their project in response to the recent wildfires. As a result of their work and the work of countless contributors, Salem has acquired a few of its own community fridges in addition to existing community pantries, both of which sit in the yards of willing homeowners and beside local businesses so that people in need of food, water and other necessities can come take them, no questions asked. One great way to support this movement is to put [donatable food items] directly into these fridges and pantries, which many Willamette students can easily do with any extra meal points. Other great opportunities for showing support are announced via social media when local free fridge organizers need help, often with logistical concerns like moving supplies from donation or storage areas into the fridges themselves.
The free fridge model is simple and innovative, facilitating the direct transfer of resources from people who have them to people who need them while keeping donated perishables fresh. Unlike the resources provided by Arches and local churches, the free fridges are available 24/7 to anybody in need. Free Fridge Salem is making local history, and WU students are starting to take notice. When asked about his thoughts on the local free fridge movement, Conor Krystad (‘22) said, “It’s a great idea. There’s a very low barrier to entry, and having fridges all over the city encourages more people to help out since it’s more visible, while also being easier to access.” The free fridge movement as a whole is delightful and revolutionary, and WU students with leftover meal points, nonperishable goods, or any other donations within the free fridge community guidelines should consider lending their support.
It can be confusing at first to find information about a project that’s this organic and decentralized. Fortunately, Free Fridge Salem and associated groups have done a good job maintaining their social media presence. For information about how, where and what to donate, as well as an interactive map of community fridges, pantries, and drop sites for donations, visit the @freefridgesalem Instagram and click the linktree in their bio. A look at the community guidelines in the [Linktree] clarifies the standards that donors are asked to hold themselves to, such as writing expiration dates on food items that don’t already display them, wearing masks while interacting with the fridges and using hand sanitizer before donating items. Additional donation preferences are expressed throughout the Instagram page, as is more information about the drop sites, one of which is inside of popular coffee shop and community meeting space IKE Box a few blocks from campus. Individual fridges and donation hubs sometimes have their own Instagram pages, and [@pnw_freefridge], a relatively new fridge within walking distance of Willamette University, just recently got its profile up and running. Keeping tabs on these accounts can keep you in the know about what they need and what they’re all stocked up on, as well as requests for volunteers to help with tasks like transporting supplies, folding informational zines about the fridges and even participating in fridge upkeep and beautification.
Social media has provided motivated community members a new way to accomplish great things. If you’re interested in local mutual aid projects but aren’t quite sure how to get involved, following one of Salem’s free fridges on social media is a great first step.