In Fort Worth’s Southside neighborhood sits a refrigerator painted with an image of a smiling woman holding a bowl of fruit. This refrigerator and an adjacent pantry are stocked with produce, canned goods, water, and other items free for the taking. The resource is part of Funky Town Fridge, a community fridge that was set up in late September by Fort Worth resident Kendra Richardson.
This year, community fridges have popped up across the country in response to increased food insecurity as the pandemic swept across the nation. The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines food insecurity as a lack of consistent access to enough food for an active and healthy lifestyle. Community fridges are stocked as often as possible by anyone who wants to donate (including restaurants, bakeries, and other local businesses), and the fridges are available 24/7 for anyone to take what they need, free of charge and no questions asked.
Richardson got the idea for Funky Town Fridge after seeing community fridges in Houston and Atlanta on Instagram. “I thought it was a cool idea, and a great way to fight for justice,” Richardson says. The ninth-grade geography teacher and hair-care entrepreneur was looking for ways to contribute more to her community. “What I’m doing now is change, and hopefully giving people the fuel they need to think and try to create a better world,” she says. “A world where people help each other and we’re not all so individualistic.”
The fridges are located in places with higher homeless populations and in food deserts, which are areas that lack access to healthy and affordable food and are a mile or more from the nearest full-service grocery store. According to the Tarrant Area Food Bank, about 280,000 Fort Worth residents live in a food desert. The locations are also near schools, so children in need can grab food before and after school.
Community Fridges Near You
Amarillo: Kids Café
Austin: ATX Free Fridge
Dallas: People’s Fridge has two locations, one in Dallas and one in DeSoto.
El Paso: Alliance of Border Collaboratives
Houston: Houston Community Fridges has locations in the Third Ward, Bellaire, Alief, Cloverleaf, and Stafford neighborhoods. In Alvin (a suburb of Houston), Alvin HOPE runs a community fridge at Garcia Auto Detailing (2203 N. Gordon).
Laredo: Laredo Community Fridge
San Antonio: Community Fridge SATX
Weatherford: Dan’s Smokehouse Community Refrigerator
Currently, the Funky Town Fridges are located at The Greenhouse 817 (3144 Bryan Avenue) in Southside and the United Fort Worth Community Justice Center (2308 Vaughn Boulevard) in the Poly neighborhood. A third location debuts soon at ThrowNShade Window Tinting (5705 Wellesley Avenue) in Como. Richardson plans to continue to open more locations across the city as funds become available. (Monetary donations are welcome online.)
A full list of foods that can and cannot be accepted can be found on the website. Alcohol, raw meat, open packaged foods, expired foods, and homemade meals can’t be accepted. Produce, canned goods, bottled beverages, baby food, dairy products, and bread are accepted, in addition to hygienic items like soap, toothpaste, diapers, detergent, and paper towels. The fridges are stocked every day, multiple times a day by the community. Richardson says that visitors are always thankful, and make sure the area is clean and free of trash. “The city and community have really stood behind us in this effort and we are very grateful for that,” Richardson says. “We want them to know food will always be there.”