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What To Know About The 25 Community Fridges Now Operating Across LA County — From Giving To Receiving

A refrigerator outdoors, in front of clustered palm trees. It is painted blue with a sun and clouds, and the words "LOs Angeles" and "Everybody Eats" painted in black.
The Lincoln Heights community fridge
(Chava Sanchez
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Every day, a network of volunteers work to maintain community fridges around Los Angeles County.

The refrigerators — some of which also have pantries close by — offer free food to anyone who needs it. Launched in July of 2020, the program has expanded over the past two years into an example of what can happen when neighbors come together.

It works like this: Anyone can drop food items off, or take what they need. All items are scanned into a database so folks know what's available.

“It's a model for mutual aid and waste diversion,” said volunteer Katelan Cunningham, “and building community.”

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The goal is to cut down on food waste by letting people share excess food — maybe from a restaurant, work event or bountiful backyard vegetable garden — with people in need.

L.A. Community Fridges, the local organization that operates the program, was inspired by New York City-based anarchist collective A New World in Our Hearts. A New World in Our Hearts started placing fridges in various communities at the start of the pandemic, and inspired similar efforts in cities across the country.

Since August 2020, L.A. Community Fridges has grown from 14 locations throughout the county to 25.

A QR code system allows volunteers to alert the network if items are understocked or overstocked at each location, as well as to provide updates about the conditions of the fridges.

“We're able to act on things quickly because we get these instantaneous check-ins,” said Cunningham.

Depending on the location of each fridge, community needs may differ. The East Hollywood fridge, for instance, services a number of people who don't have access to a kitchen.

"Most people who visit, they're just grabbing something to go to or they're living in an unhoused community,” said Cunningham. “And so, you know, a giant head of raw cauliflower is not super useful if you can't cook it."

She adds that the biggest demand is usually for water, which you can see in real-time thanks to the database.

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"So if you're on our website, you can see that a lot of fridges will say, as of three hours ago, this fridge is stocked full, but people still are asking for water," Cunningham said.

L.A. Community Fridges is adding more locations soon, and hopes to keep expanding. In addition to dropping off food, volunteers are needed to keep the fridges clean and to make sure the food being offered is fresh.

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