New “Freedge” in South Bend offers a new take on fighting hunger

Published: Apr. 5, 2023 at 5:39 PM EDT
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) -New details on the latest effort to reduce hunger in South Bend and its called a “Freedge”.

It’s a combination of the words “Free” and “Fridge,” which describes exactly what it is, a community refrigerator offering free food.

One just opened right outside the Near Northwest Community Center, which is where we’re learning how they’re different than your typical food pantry.

This one might be new to South Bend, but there are more than 400 others like this in the U.S. alone.

They provide fresh food you don’t typically find at other food pantries like meats, dairy, and greens for people facing food insecurity with no questions asked.

Coming in all shapes and sizes, “Freedges” also tend to operate differently at every location. But the one thing they all have in common is their roots in the community they serve.

This one is open 24/7, providing fresh, refrigerated food and non-perishables, as well as health and hygiene products.

“The goal that I have is one day opening up that refrigerator and seeing nothing, and then the next day opening that refrigerator and seeing it full again because that not only means that people are receiving, but also that people are giving. That is going to be the cycle that I hope to see,” said Feed a Friend Organizer Jackie Wilda, who spearheaded the installment of this Freedge.

Wilda said she adopted this idea from one she saw in Canada, and set ours up to reflect the needs in South Bend’s Near Northwest Neighborhood.

“In a place like the near northwest especially, we have such an economically diverse neighborhood that there are people here who are living on the gig economy, we’ve got college students, we’ve got houseless who are living in our neighborhood, we have people who are working paycheck to paycheck. When we have no grocery stores and it becomes a food desert, that is a version of food insecurity,” she said.

“Within the last five years, we’ve lost our major grocery store. We’ve just received news that the Walmart, up the road, which was like the next store over, is about to close, so the timing of this couldn’t be better,” said Near Northwest Neighborhood Executive Director Kathy Schuth.

They’ll need volunteers to keep up the maintenance, clean out expired items, and organize donated food.

There is no limit on what food you can donate, as long as it isn’t opened and it isn’t expired.

Donating food is as easy as it is to pick it up. All you need to do is drop the food in the fridge or cupboard after arriving.

Wilda says they’re also exploring how to collect monetary donations so they can consistently keep the fridge stocked.