“Leave what you can, take what you need:” EFBL to install community fridge


Photo courtesy of Maia Robinson

The Evanston Fight for Black Lives community fridge, outside of the Childcare Network of Protection building at 1335 Dodge Ave. The fridge will be moved to the front of the building and will be painted by Ziana Pearson-Muller as soon as weather conditions improve.

Delaney Nelson, Assistant City Editor

Evanston Fight for Black Lives organizer Maia Robinson said she wants all community members to feel a “sense of pride” over the community fridge EFBL will install in the upcoming weeks — as well as a responsibility to take care of it.

As a form of mutual aid, she said the guiding principle for the fridge is to “leave what you can, take what you need.”

“It’s not trying to point out who’s the one in need and who’s the one volunteering,” Robinson said. “That, to me, is what mutual aid is, doing whatever you can to take care of the community. That fits well with abolition, because the whole foundation of abolition is to look after one another and not depend on the state or the government to do life-affirming things. They should, but if they’re not doing it, we can do it ourselves. We can take care of one another.”

The fridge, which will be located outside the Childcare Network of Evanston building at 1335 Dodge Ave, will be open for all community members to take and add food. A dry pantry will be built next to the fridge. Robinson said the fridge should be operating in the next few weeks, depending on weather conditions.

The organization will post food safety guidelines on the fridge and monitor the fridge to ensure it stays full. Community members will restock the Evanston fridge, and EFBL is also looking to partner with Evanston restaurants.

Maggie Quinn, a resident collaborating with EFBL, said residents should not contribute any raw meat or expired food, and all items should be dated and labeled with ingredients. People can also bring individually-wrapped and labeled baked goods and pre-prepared meals.

There will be no income or residency prerequisites for using the fridge, which will be open to members both inside and outside the Evanston community. Quinn said ideally, the fridge will be accessible 24/7.

“The idea is that the fridge belongs to everyone,” Quinn said. “It’s mutual aid, and it’s not exclusive of anybody that would like to access it. The fridge is for me, the fridge is for you. You put things in the fridge that you would like to eat.”

As soon as outside conditions allow, local artist Ziana Pearson-Muller will paint the fridge. Pearson-Muller, an Evanston Township High School graduate and Black Lives Matter activist, helped paint the Black Lives Matter mural outside the Evanston Art Center last summer.

Pearson-Muller said they see painting the fridge as art with a “greater purpose” — as a way to give back to the community.

EFBL, Pearson-Muller said, wants the artwork on the fridge to represent its community, which could include incorporating ETHS school colors blue and orange into the visual. She plans to paint an image of fruits and vegetables falling into a basket, and write the phrases “Free Food 4 All” and “Comida Gratis.”

“I want it to definitely be something that catches people’s eye off the streets,” Pearson-Muller said. “I want to make the fruits pop; I want to make the letters pop … I think it’s gonna be pretty cool.”

EFBL has met with The Love Fridge Chicago, a mutual aid group that has installed community fridges throughout Chicago. Robinson said The Love Fridge gave the group inspiration and the basic framework for Evanston’s community fridge.

The Evanston Rebuilding Warehouse, which has donated two fridges to The Love Fridge, also donated the fridge and other materials to EFBL.

“A community fridge means more people can assist themselves and their families without judgment, and without a lot of red tape,” said Annette Stewart, marketing manager for ERW.

Robinson said once the first fridge is stabilized, EFBL hopes to add more fridges throughout the community.

“It’s the community’s responsibility,” Robinson said. “It’s not just Evanston Fight for Black Lives. It’s not just the Childcare Network of Evanston. We hope to make it a community effort.”

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @delaneygnelson

Related Stories: 

ETown Sunrise, EFBL host mayoral candidates in town hall

Local business owner buys out street vendors, donates food to community fridges

Wandering Cafe brings mobile, locally-sourced street food to Evanston