As Chicago, Illinois residents struggle with the economic downturn as a result of the coronavirus, the Love Fridge Chicago is bringing fully stocked refrigerators to neighborhoods struggling with food apartheid.
According to a new tool from Northwestern University that looks at the rate of food insecurity during COVID-19, roughly 20 percent of Illinois residents are food insecure. Those numbers are even higher for Black and Latinx residents.
And a study from the University of Chicago shows that, despite an increase of supermarkets across Chicago, access to affordable healthy food was persistently poor in low-income neighborhoods.
Through the Love Fridge Chicago, co-founder Ramon Radius and his team of fellow volunteers are trying to address the city’s food apartheid. The program aims to bring free food to neighborhoods in the South and West Sides in Chicago that have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 and food insecurity.
The Love Fridge Chicago works by installing refrigerators filled with food around the city. The refrigerators are available for anyone to take what they need at any time of day. Radius defines this as a mutual aid model, explaining that local residents regularly typically restock the fridges.
The mutual aid model is a new concept for many of the volunteers. Radius explains, ”We empower one another from a strong core foundation rooted in love. The key words to action are trust, respect and unity.”
The Love Fridge Chicago has installed 24 fridges in 18 neighborhoods, including Logan Square, Hyde Park, and Little Village, with one sitting outside the historic Stone Temple Missionary Baptist Church.
Radius explains that the program has 15 core volunteers, who bring a variety of skills to the initiative. The members help to construct, deliver, and maintain the refrigerators, distribute food, and conduct outreach and develop partnerships.
The Love Fridge Chicago also commissions local artists to paint and design the refrigerators. Radius explains that the artists ensure that it is obvious to passersby that the food and goods inside are free to anyone.
Most recently, the Love Fridge Chicago introduced a mini-fridge model. This model gives three families their own mini-fridge, pre-stocked with fresh produce. Radius and the team partner with other small businesses in the Chicago area, including Brave Space Alliance, Chef Fresh Roberson, and Nita’s Love Train to distribute the mini-fridges and spread awareness using their combined social media platforms.
As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Chicago, Radius is hopeful that he can continue to expand the Love Fridge into more areas and support neighbors in this time of need.
Photo courtesy of Love Fridge Chicago