INDIANAPOLIS — A new grassroots collective that works to address food inequalities is coming together in Indianapolis.
"Love Fridge Indy" is a community refrigerator collective that secures donated fridges and puts them in an easily accessible place for people to either donate food or take free food.
The Love Fridge collective made it's way to Indy by way of Chicago, which now has 11 different refrigerators sprawled across its city.
Steph Gray, a Hoosier native who recently moved back to Indianapolis from Chicago, had a connection with the organizers of Love Fridge Chicago. She knew she wanted to bring the community-driven mission to Indy neighborhoods.
"I think the community — Indy — is really looking for ways to help folks who need it and also to be involved. Now, more than ever, this is a community that's looking out for our neighbors," Gray said. "We're seeing that ... we can't always rely on institutions to take care of us, and there are a lot of really great organizations doing really great work."
The group plans to have ten fridges placed with Love Fridge hosts throughout Indianapolis by Thanksgiving. Each fridge will have fresh produce from community kitchens, gardens, and residents alike. The fridges can also be stocked with prepared meals from commercial kitchens, bottled water, and more.
The first of ten was placed on Shelby Street in Fountain Square on Sunday, right outside of Southeast Community Services.
Gray said the reason why Love Fridge Chicago grew so fast was because "folks really want to help."
Love Fridge is a community-driven mutual aid that Gray knew Indianapolis not only needed but would want to take part in.
"I think that is always something to be said, but especially now," Gray continued. "You know, everything with COVID, businesses closing, the racial injustice that's been bubbling under the surface essentially since like 1619 —it's finally now getting a much deserved, but very very late ... public stance."
If there is anything that the COVID-19 pandemic has made more transparent, it's the constant fight some communities have for food security.
According to Love Fridge, these communal refrigerators will help prevent food waste and give to neighbors whose options tend to be scarce.
"Marion County has the highest overall rate of food insecurity in the state," Gray said. "I believe being able to feed yourself and being in a food-rich area and produce-rich area is a human right. That is not extended to every single person."
It all starts with a donated, working fridge.
Once secured, the fridge is then placed with a "host," who holds it on their property and gives it power. From there, Love Fridge managers volunteer their time to check the refrigerators daily for temperature checks, expired food, clean-ups, and sanitization.
Each refrigerator is then also painted and decorated by a local artist who reflects the community.
The contents of the fridge are then finally filled with fresh produce from local shelters, gardens, community members, or even local eateries. You can check the Love Fridge website for items you can and can not put in the fridge.
"I think gardening ... is a radical act. Because you're like disrupting a supply chain to say, 'we can create this ourselves.' So I think you can take that one step further by saying, 'we can make this ourselves, and we can also share it ourselves.'"
Now that Gray has successfully finished organizing her first fridge placement, she is ready to do the process all over again — but with help.
"I think what's really beautiful about this city is people want to help each other," Gray said. "Indy's big, but the neighborhoods are so communal that like you can get as involved as you want. So, why not take that and run with it?"
Love Fridge Indy is looking for refrigerators, volunteers, monetary donations for artists, and, of course, fresh and healthy food donations for the fridges.
Those interested in following or learning more about Love Fridge Indy can follow them on Instagram @lovefridgeindy or emailing the collective at firstname.lastname@example.org.