The United State Interagency Council on Homelessness estimated that, “as of January 2020, Oregon had an estimated 14,655 experiencing homelessness on any given day.” When an individual is low income or doesn’t have a home to go to at the end of the day, it can be hard to acquire basic necessities, including the ever important food. This is where Free Fridge of Salem comes in. The organization was started in February 2020 by two women identified only by the names of Summer and April. This nonprofit organization provides both fridges and dry pantries that have free food, hygiene supplies, clothes, and more, for anyone who needs them. By anyone, they mean anyone. This means that even if you are not experiencing housing insecurity-maybe you’re experiencing economic strife, or are just hungry-you can still grab some food from this communal resource. There are approximately 20 locations with several locations to drop off food. The closest fridge and dry pantry combo are PNW Free Fridge, which is run by a couple named Matt and Niki Falardeau, who sat down for an interview with the Collegian.
The Falardeaus explained that originally they wanted to help people experiencing housing insecurity or houselessness but did not exactly know how to start. It started when they took part in a sock and clothing drive and realized how many people are in need of basic necessities. “That was the catalyst that made us approach this,” they said. They were one of the very first community fridge and pantry installations that appeared. This fridge and pantry combo are located outside their home on 17th street. They stock the fridge daily with homemade sandwiches and other donations that they receive. The Falardeaus revealed that they make so many peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and so often that they realized that there are typically about 41½ total sandwiches per 4 loaves of bread.
They also said that without social media, Free Fridge would not be as utilized as it is today. “There is always an influx of donations anytime we post on social media,” they said. The number of people who use the free fridges and the number of people that donate vary all the time. That doesn’t mean that people don’t use it; rather, many people just don’t know how. The Falardeaus explained, “whatever anyone donates leaves within 12 hours no matter what. Nothing doesn’t go.” They have even had rather large donations that have not lasted till the 24-hour mark. That just goes to show how high in demand this project is, and by proxy, how big of an issue food insecurity is in Salem.
Once a month Free Fridge puts on an event called a Radically Free Market, where people bring both goods (such as food, clothes, and toys) and services (like haircuts and massages). It’s all free and is for anyone who might need it. I personally went to the last Radically Free Market, which was on October 9th. It was beautiful to witness so many caring people come together to help those in need.
The radical free market offers many important resources to anyone that needs them including meals, hygiene products, condoms, and clean needles.
Community members also bring clothing and other household items for anyone to take.
What is the best way to help? “Donate, donate, donate, donate, donate. Donate anything you have, anything you can. The biggest question we get is can I donate this and as long as it is not expired food, you can basically donate anything that can fit over there and it will leave, somebody will need it.” Niki explained. Matt further revealed, “Donations don’t have to be monetary, they don’t have to be food. Anything that you think another human could possibly want or use.”
Social Media- @freefridgesalem @pnwfreefridge