The Worcester Community Fridges is a community-led mutual aid effort that provides neighbors with safe and free access to food via our network of outdoor fridges and pantries located throughout the city. As food insecurity impacts everyone in OUR COMMUNITY, the fridges mobilize our community to meet our needs and thrive together.
We believe that having daily access to fresh food is a right, not a privilege. Our free food initiative is rooted in mutual aid, meaning this is a fully community-run operation with the goal of developing community resilience and ultimately liberation from the power structures that are designed to oppress and regulate us. This is mutual aid, not charity. Our goal is empowerment and building long-term relationships with community members to ensure a future where we are safe and cared for in our community.
What We Do-
Food insecurity happens when our community’s basic needs are not being met, and reflects inefficient and harmful food policies and systems. In Worcester, 15% of families have identified as living with food insecurity. This is not a scarcity issue: according to a 2010 USDA study, there is approximately 133 billion pounds of food that is wasted and sent to landfills annually. We work alongside local businesses in Worcester who align with our mission and organize outdoor refrigerators that are accessible 24/7, no questions asked. Within our organizing efforts, we partner with farms, grocers, and local restaurants to rescue food that would otherwise be thrown away. We also transparently manage funds given by those in our community to fill the fridges, supplementing what we rescue with staples like fresh dairy, produce, and culturally relevant food options.
Our Guiding Principles-
Solidarity not Charity- We organize laterally and our work is non-hierarchical. We understand that community members know their needs best, so we work in solidarity with those most affected by the structural harm that is caused in our communities. We work to blur the boundaries of giver and receiver and prioritize community responsibility over traditional systems of charity that emphasize one-way exchanges and are often ineffective ways of addressing structural inequalities.
Community Connection- The community fridges are organized structures for self-healing, sustainable mutual aid and connection. We approach our work with love, joy, and understanding that our job as neighbors is to care for one another. We do this by forming genuine connections and exchanging resources.
Mutual Aid- In practice, mutual aid is community coming together to organize the exchange of resources. This ensures that every community member's needs are met. We are following the footsteps of grassroot organizers who came before us and acknowledge that mutual aid practices stem from non-Western traditions that predate colonialism and capitalism.
Trust- Community fridges are safe spaces, free from policing or judgment. We believe people know the best way to meet their needs. Food insecurity is not an issue that stems from scarcity, rather organizations that are hoarding resources for power or profit and policing the distribution of resources. We must work to uncover and disrupt those inequitable systems.
We believe true community requires us to acknowledge our interdependence and shared vulnerability. Blurring the lines between giver and receiver, we love that neighbors can both use and donate to the fridges. We recognize that giving and taking food are equally important steps in the lifecycle of food. We want the fridges to be a resource for those who live and work in the community, as well as a space where neighbors can connect and build relationships with each other.
We create a place where you can come, grab what you need, and go. By providing open access to fridges and pantries, neighbors can access the fridges 24 hours a day without barriers, like needing to provide ID, jump through hoops, meet eligibility criteria, or figure out open hours. Everyone is able to take what they need, and leave what they can.
We prioritize the safety and comfort of neighbors who use the fridge by organizing a network of volunteers to help maintain the fridges and their enclosures. We treat neighbors at the fridges with dignity and respect, for example by not photographing or recording (smile, you are NOT on camera) and not policing peoples’ food choices.
We provide transparent and up-to-date information about our budget and finances, how and where to access the fridges, and how to volunteer and donate.
We stand in solidarity with the most marginalized members of our community. The Worcester Community Fridges does not support or tolerate rhetoric or behavior that excludes or dehumanizes any person or group because of their sexuality, gender, race, ability, or social class. We commit to providing a safe and accepting space for everyone.
We Do Not-
We do not gatekeep food choices. Neighbors in our community have different health and dietary needs and varying ability to store or cook food. We recognize the barriers to accessing culturally relevant foods locally (folks need collards and not just kale!). We encourage and work to facilitate a variety of donations that meet our food guidelines and the diverse food needs and cultures within our community.
We do not gatekeep community fridges. We want enough resources for the whole city and encourage self-organizing to address needs within our community. Anyone can open a community fridge, whether under the umbrella of Worcester Community Fridges or otherwise. Where our missions align, we are excited to support and partner with similar organizations city and statewide.
We do not accept funding or direct support from government offices or agencies. Our local and state government has not met the basic needs (e.g., food, shelter, safety from violence) of so many in our community. Rather than funding the fridges, we believe the city should address the structural conditions that create food insecurity in the first place. Additionally, we will not accept funding that will limit our capacities and goes against our mission of equitable access.
We are not directly affiliated with a particular religion, religious group, or religious charity. There are several churches locally that prepare and donate meals directly to the fridges, but this work is not limited to churches: we receive lots of love from a variety of local restaurants, grocers, and other organizations who fill the fridges.
We do not align ourselves with those who perpetuate harm, this includes law enforcement, government bodies, and any other individuals or organizations that go directly against our mission.