By David Glover
Over the past few months Robin Mitchell, Nancy Dishno, Pastor Goede and I have been in conversation with neighborhood partners interested in bringing a “Love Fridge” back to Hyde Park.
A “Love Fridge” is a community accessible refrigerator placed with the goal of nourishing communities while reducing food scarcity and food waste through the process of bringing people together in mutual aid—the reciprocal, collective care for one another where each contributes to one another’s common good by looking out for each other as each person is able. This is done under the auspices of The Love Fridge Chicago organization which believes that being able to feed yourself is a right, not a privilege.
There had been a Love Fridge off 57th Street in the past but it needed to be removed, losing access to this resource locally. The closest Love Fridges to Hyde Park are in Grand Boulevard, Washington Park, West Englewood, and South Shore. The University of Chicago Office of Civic Engagement brought together a group of people from neighborhood schools, religious and health organizations to see if it was possible to return a Love Fridge to Hyde Park.
Pastor Goede was approached because of Augustana’s central location in the neighborhood, its outdoor spaces and convenience to multiple bus routes. She brought together the group of congregational members to work with the neighborhood Love Fridge group. After several conversations, a location for a refrigerator was found at the front gate on 55th Street and our church council approved the partnership and location. The neighborhood Love Fridge group will provide the volunteer fridge managers overseeing the refrigerator’s contents and food stockers who arrange for or collect food donations from businesses in the neighborhood or elsewhere in the city.
What you will find in a Love Fridge are sealed/unopened, date labeled, packaged foods including juices, pasteurized milk and yogurt, cheese, bread, pastry, and cured meats, as well as fresh fruits, vegetables, and eggs. There will also be limited space next to the refrigerator for shelf-stable pantry items. These all must have been prepared following standardized food safety guidelines (using gloves, masks, etc.) and be in containers which protect the integrity of their contents from contamination and adulteration. Any prepared foods must be properly labelled with ingredients and dated so that the fridge managers can monitor their freshness.
What you will not find in a Love Fridge are raw meat and fish, alcohol, unlabeled multi-ingredient items, and half-eaten leftovers.
As a mutual aid activity, it is expected that everyone using the fridge – contributor or consumer – do their part in keeping the fridge clean, safe, and appealing by avoiding unnecessary contact with food items to prevent contamination. Also, if you notice food has gone bad or packaging has been compromised, throw it away. If you notice that the fridge needs cleaning, maintenance, or is above 41°F, please get in touch via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Contributors, please put new donations towards the back of the shelves so that food gets eaten in the order it is donated and please do not donate anything that you would not personally consume.
So very soon at Augustana’s front entrance you will find a refrigerator for all to access. Since it is at our front door, how we decorate this Love Fridge is up to us! Here are some other examples in Chicago: