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'Take what you need': Refrigerators start popping up to help those struggling with food insecurity

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Posted at 11:12 AM, Mar 17, 2021

DENVER — As the pandemic ravaged almost every single part of society, it’s also highlighted a growing problem in many communities: food insecurity. One volunteer-based project in Denver is looking to address that need in the short term through community fridges.

“We want to make sure people don’t have to make the choice between paying rent and feeding their families,” Eli Zain, founder of the Denver Community Fridges Project, told Denver7.

The project involves refrigerators placed outside in public places, stocked with food for those in need. It’s modeled after other free fridge projects from across the country.

"Take what you need": Refrigerators start popping up in Denver

“If you need stuff you just go and pick out whatever you like and take it home with you,” Zain explained. “It’s really that simple.”

The refrigerators contain anything from apples to individually packaged meals to cans of soup. The cost is written on the outside of the fridge: free.

“You don’t have to check in with anyone. You just go and take whatever you need, any time you need,” Zain said.

Just like anyone can pick something out of a fridge, or in some locations the shelves next to them, anyone can also make a donation at any time.

There are six community fridges in Denver now, scattered across the city. They are brightly-painted works of art themselves and there’s a purpose behind that.

“The fridges are not only beautiful to look at but are bringing awareness and making people take notice of what’s happening in their own community,” Zain said.

The volunteers that oversee the fridges say they know they are working because they get pictures of the fridges, sometimes multiple times per day, where they have been emptied out.

The project’s founder and those involved say they know this won’t solve the problem of food insecurity. Statistics from Hunger-Free Colorado show that one in three people in Colorado is food insecure. But in the short term, it will help some people right now.

“It’s kind of like a Band-Aid approach. We know that people need to eat right now and this is a way for us to make sure they can eat now,” Zain said.

For more information on the project, you can check out @denvercommunityfridge on Instagram.

This story originally reported by Jason Gruenauer on