Community fridge in Shelburne Falls offers free food to those in need

  • Anna Meyer of Hart Farm in Conway checks on the contents of the community free food fridge that she helped create outside Keystone Market on Bridge Street in Shelburne Falls. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Anna Meyer of Hart Farm in Conway with the community free food fridge that she helped create on Bridge Street in Shelburne Falls. Keystone Market is hosting the fridge and providing electricity. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Colrain resident Amanda Kilbride uses the “take what you need, leave what you can” community food fridge on Bridge Street in Shelburne Falls on Wednesday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • A community food fridge has been installed at Keystone Market in Shelburne Falls. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 3/10/2021 6:50:48 PM

SHELBURNE FALLS — If you’ve walked down Bridge Street lately, you may have noticed a new addition to the sidewalk outside Keystone Market — a refrigerator offering free food for those who might need it.

“We bought a fridge, we bought materials and we made a shelter for the fridge,” said Anna Meyer, who organized Shelburne Falls’ first community free food fridge.

Meyer, who owns and operates Hart Farm in Conway, said the Franklin County Community Fridge is a mutual aid project that’s open to the public.

“Anyone can donate food, and anyone can take the food,” she said. “The purpose is to help mitigate food insecurity and help build resilience in the community as well.”

Meyer said she has a team of roughly 10 volunteers, but that number is growing — and she hopes it continues to grow. Those volunteers help to monitor the fridge, which includes keeping it clean and checking that the food inside it hasn’t expired or — on chillier days — frozen.

“It’s not just a Shelburne Falls project; it’s a Franklin County project,” Meyer said. “As I expected, there’s a lot of energy. Once the first one is out there, and people start to learn what’s happening — I’m already talking to people in Turners (Falls) ... about getting a fridge over there.”

Meyer, who hopes to see the initiative in Shelburne Falls spread to elsewhere in the county including Greenfield, said she has partnered with the nonprofit Common Good to help with marketing.

“Now that we have this foundation, we know what to expect,” Meyer said.

The goal of community free food fridges, she said, is to fill a coverage gap by providing 24-hour access to food.

“There are many organizations, like the food bank and churches who are doing meal distributions, but they’re on certain days and you may need a vehicle to get to them,” she said. “We’re aiming to make this flexible and accessible, and you don’t have to prove anything. You don’t have to prove your insecurity to take from the fridge.”

In preparation for getting the first fridge outside Keystone Market off the ground last week, Meyer has worked with local government bodies and attended meetings of the Hunger Task Force. But the real challenge, she said, is finding community partners for more refrigerators.

“The hardest part of this is finding locations and willing parties to host a fridge,” she said.

Krunal Patel, owner of Keystone Market, said when Meyer and her volunteers approached him about potentially hosting the fridge outside, he was on board.

“They needed space and couldn’t find a better spot,” said the Shelburne Falls resident. “All I have to do is supply electricity each month. … It’s a donation from my side.”

Patel said he has already received donations from customers to make sure the fridge stays full.

“I told them I’ll make sure it doesn’t get empty,” he said.

Throughout the process of setting up the first fridge, Meyer said she has discovered the significance of a community-driven food project.

“It gives you a sense of agency in your community to help other people,” she said. “On the other hand, if you’re in need of help, your community is there.”

To become a volunteer for the project, visit bit.ly/3c94teI to fill out a volunteer form.


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