Evanston Community Fridges see increased demand, introduce new initiatives over the summer


Saul Pink/The Daily Northwestern

The community fridge outside of Soul & Smoke. Organizers of Evanston Community Fridges said the warm summer weather is bringing more people to the fridges.

Saul Pink, Reporter

Evanston resident Carrie Jackson had unopened nuts and guacamole left over from a party and wasn’t sure what to do with them. So she drove to the community fridge outside of Kombucha Brava and handed them to someone who was looking for something to stock their kitchen.

Jackson is one of the co-managers of the Kombucha Brava community fridge — the fourth and most recent to pop up in Evanston. Organizers of Evanston Community Fridges say they’ve seen increased traffic this summer and have introduced initiatives to ensure the fridges stay stocked. 

“It seems like the fridges are really a place that a lot of folks are going when they need food,” said Anna Grant-Bolton, one of the organizers. “But that also means that we need to increase our outreach to get more food donations because that’s really what we’re lacking right now.”

With warm summer weather, more people are out on foot, giving the fridges more business than usual, Grant-Bolton said.

Community members built Evanston’s first fridge outside the Childcare Network of Evanston. But a vehicle crashed into the fridge and destroyed it the night before it was supposed to be plugged in.

According to Evanston Community Fridges’ mission statement, the fridges aim to help out Evanston residents “​​without relying on ineffective institutions to provide nourishment and cultural affirmation.”

“In a perfect world, we wouldn’t have a community that allows our neighbors to go hungry,” Grant-Bolton said. “I think that a perfect government system would ensure that every community member has something to eat.”

There are four fridges in Evanston: the original CNE Fridge, the Freedom Fridge on Howard St., the Soul Fridge near Soul and Smoke and the Sunrise Fridge near Kombucha Brava. 

Last month, Organizers rolled out a program for people to donate money to stock the fridges. Then, residents can buy groceries to stock the fridges and be reimbursed for doing so. 

“Anybody is able to go make grocery runs and donate food, even if they don’t have the funds to purchase that themselves,” Grant-Bolton said. 

Evanston Community Fridges is also partnering with Northwestern Dining to stock the fridges with food waste from the dining halls.  

The Soul Fridge, which sits outside of barbecue joint Soul & Smoke at 1601 Payne St., opened in June 2021. When patrons order from the restaurant, they can pay $10 to donate a meal to the fridge. According to co-owner Heather Bublick, Soul & Smoke puts about 30 meals in the fridge each day.

“The community has done so much for us,” Bublick said. “And so the little bit that we can give back right here at home is amazing.”

The community fridge guidelines require that every item have an expiration date to ensure that all the food is safe to eat. Volunteers stop by regularly to make sure the fridges are clean and all items are still good.

Jackson said she hopes more and more residents will chip in. 

“We want people to really truly realize that they are helping their neighbors,” Jackson said.  “They are helping someone immediately and making a large impact even though it might just be something small for them.”

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Twitter: @saullpink

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