Logan Herring, who runs The Warehouse and Kingswood and oversees the Reach Riverside revitalization project, says the fridges are a welcome and vital addition to an area he calls a food desert. He said too many residents go to bed hungry or without eating nutritious meals.
While there’s a Food Lion supermarket about two miles away, not everyone can get there, Herring said.
“If you think about it, if you don’t have a car, by the time you walk in the summertime your milk is spoiled,’’ he said. “There aren’t a lot of healthy options in the neighborhood. We have a lot of processed foods. We have three dollar stores in the neighborhood, corner stores and Popeyes chicken.”
Herring says the fridges are open around the clock, with no limitations on users.
“If you don’t want to come get it and have people seeing you get it, you can get it at 3 o’clock in the morning,’’ he said. “We aren’t judging anyone. You can come take as much as you want or as little as you like.”
Melody Phillips, operations director at The Warehouse, seconded that notion.
“If you have nothing in your house, and you are like, ‘Ah, you know what, the community fridge is right around the corner, across the street’ absolutely help yourself,” she said.
“Or if you’re like, ‘Hey, you know what, I just didn’t feel like cooking and the fridge has something I could easily heat up, then please use it. There’s no restrictions or requirements. You don’t have to be without food to use it.”
Phillips said she also wants teens who use The Warehouse to see how important it is to support people with food insecurity in the neighborhood.
Westott, who works for a tech company, got involved with Kingswood a few years ago while bringing residents prepared meals that contained produce she grew at a church location near Newark. Herring showed her an underutilized community garden behind the center with more than 30 beds, and her group took it over. They grow peas, broccoli, carrots, beets, cabbage, beans, greens, and more.
But when the pandemic hit last year and serving meals became logistically problematic and dangerous, she broached the idea of putting in community refrigerators. Herring said he readily gave his blessings.