By Qadir Shabazz
January 12, 2021
The virus, when COVID-19 hit the streets of every single neighborhood in the United States of America back in March of 2020 there’s been a feeling of hopelessness for when it could possibly come to an end. Wiping out every single employee away from their jobs, jobless for days, for weeks, for months not knowing when the next check would hit to provide food for the family, clothes and shelter. This impact was truly sinister in the aspect of abruptly causing a worldwide shift in the way we live today, although somewhere in some borough - a middle to lower class borough - there’s been a heartbeat staying alive, sending waves across the digital and fourth dimensional world indicating the possibility of providing the essentials needs to survive for those in need of it. The sun will always shine and when it does we as people rise to acknowledge that there is always a way to succeed, the radiance of the sun is the fuel for the motors attached to our ideas. The question isn’t whether “how driven are you?” exactly, the question is more rather “How far are you willing to drive?”, to understand that a little more thoroughly here’s an example - The Roslindale Fridge Community.
For decades as humans we’ve known to throw out the things that no longer serve us and the things that no longer work the way it’s supposed to - or simply being replaced by an upgraded version of it. Fridges is one of those things, the object in which of course holds the storage space of our foods. You might see one or two on the side of the road sitting in front of someone’s house, that’s when you know something has changed. In the streets of Boston you will come to know that there are thinkers and creatives coming together on an innovative matter to present to the world their ideas, their goals and how they are willing to construct the means to achieve them. The Roslindale Fridge Community has been a primary example of that matter, it is simply amazing - a seed like this can grow in any garden - in any borough - in which it has. It’s become a citywide movement to give back to the people who have been impacted by COVID-19 by storing healthy goods in these fridges. Vegetables, fruits, beverages of the kind that sustain anyone. This really is a classy, innovative and brilliant organization that has gathered local residents to all in one provide food and clothes every now and then - various times a month.
I’ve had the opportunity to do a highly substantial Q&A with local resident, creative and community organizer - Jenny Nguyen to learn more about the Roslindale Fridge Community. Check it out.
Q&A W/ JENNY NGUYEN
First off, I want to say thank you for taking the time to do this Q&A. I know you’re very busy doing the work that you do. Could you let us know a little bit about where you’re from and what you do?
Jenny: Thank you for having me. It's an honor to speak to you all. My name is Jenny Nguyen and I am a creative and community organizer from Roslindale, MA.
I’m sure the people would like to know how the Roslindale Fridge Community came together and what ways are people able to contribute to the movement.
Jenny: The community fridge idea came along back in September 2020. I was on Instagram scrolling through and came across these fridges on the sidewalks in NYC and Chicago that said “Free Food. Take what you need. Give what you can.” I was really interested and curious as to how to start one here in Roslindale so after some more searching, I found the Boston Community Fridge in JP. I hit them up to see if they were interested in starting a community fridge in Roslindale and they connected me with another resident from the Roslindale area, Laura, who is a part of a food rescue mutual aid group called RISE (Roslindale Is For Everyone). The two of us corresponded via email and phone calls for weeks before meeting in-person on how to operate a community fridge in Boston.
We started an IG page to promote awareness and also to hit up operating community fridges in different states that could assist us with questions and guidance. From there, we spent days working really hard to gather community support, find volunteers, and most importantly, secure a host.
We both had the goal of stationing the community fridge between Healy Field and the Archdale Developments for accessibility and need purposes. I posted it on my personal IG page that we were looking for a host and one of my really good friends, Alicia, reached out to me offering to help host the fridge at her father’s local bodega; which is located right at Healy Field. Once we secured the host, our volunteer count had grown so much that we spent our weekends at the Roslindale Farmer’s Market promoting our fridge and trying to gain more community support.
In about a month, we were able to find a host, paint our fridge, build the shed, and go into operation.
Still so surreal to me that we were able to get our fridge up and running within a month. I’m so grateful for the team. We were working so hard and day in/day out trying to figure out how to do this with no real sense of direction besides guidance from our other fridge friends in Boston, NYC (@iohnyc) , and Chicago (@thelovefridgechicago). I’m super grateful for the team here in Roslindale but also for all the other fridge teams for guiding us through this process.
Every day, I think about how we made a simple idea into a reality. With the help from like minded individuals, we were able to execute our idea into a tangible reality. I thank the universe everyday for placing these amazing folks in my life.
Now there’s about 9 operating community fridges in operation in the Greater Boston area; all independently operated by local community organizers. There are other fridges in the works too.
Roslindale Community Fridge: @roslindalecommunityfridge
Dorchester Community Fridge: @dotcommunityfridge
Allston/Brighton Community Fridge: @allstonbrightonfridges
Fenway Community Fridge: @earthy.boston
Mattapan Community Fridge: @matcommunityfridge
The Bridge Fridge: @communityforusbyus
The Coast Community Fridge: @cambridgecitygrowers
Harvard Sq Community Fridge: @cambridgefridge
Somerville Community Fridge: @somervillecommunityfridge
In the works (Most of these fridges are seeking help finding a host):
Jamaica Plain Community Fridge: @bostoncommunityfridge
South Boston: @southbostoncommunityfridge
This is more pertaining to what the mayor and governor could do better in order for local residents to live better sustainable lifestyles through COVID-19. In what areas do you feel the City of Boston could better?
Jenny: In response to your question regarding how the local government could do better, I think that they have a responsibility in supporting communities and mutual aid efforts during this time of uncertainty. There are tons of mutual aid efforts that have come about and found ways to support their community during a global pandemic, which is incredibly inspiring. There are so many amazingly selfless and talented individuals/groups in this city who have used their time to help others with little to no governmental help. I think that speaks volume.
The aid needs to be redistributed appropriately and equally amongst inner city Bostonians. We’re often left out of the conversations. Boston doesn’t look like how they typically portray us in the media. Black and Brown Bostonians exist too. They’re the ones who make up Boston and its neighborhoods. Mattapan, Roslindale, Dorchester, Hyde Park, East Boston, Roxbury, Jamaica Plain, Chinatown, Brighton. Neighborhoods with a high concentration of Black and Brown folks. Resources and aid should be redistributed equally amongst these folks. Majority of these Boston neighborhoods were built from the bottom up by immigrants and by ignoring their presence, it’s doing them a disservice and extreme harm.
We’re in the first month of 2021, will there be any donation drives coming up soon from the Roslindale Fridge Community?
Jenny: The team and I are currently planning monthly food drives at the fridge. The last two food drives went extremely well and we find other ways to support our community during this time. Using venmo, we were able to crowdsource a good amount of donations that help us buy necessary goods for the food drives. Laura is also a superwoman when it comes to finding free food in bulk so that has been really awesome. Having a point of contact for large donations has been so helpful. We usually release the date of our food drives a week or two in advance on Instagram so keep an eye out for something coming this month or mid next month.