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D.C. Nonprofit Fights Hunger By Providing Free Meals With Public Fridges

Feed the Fridge, a local nonprofit organization in Washington, D.C., was created in response to the pandemic as a way to supply free meals to the hungry while helping local restaurants stay in business.

A woman grabs a free meal from a Feed the Fridge public refrigerator. Photo Courtesy of Feed the Fridge.org.

Feed the Fridge, a local nonprofit organization in Washington, D.C., was created in response to the pandemic as a way to supply free meals to the hungry while helping local restaurants stay in business. The program has placed 22 refrigerators around the D.C. metropolitan area and pays local restaurants to fill them with fresh meals everyday.  

The nonprofit operates each day by collecting meals prepared by restaurants. The Feed the Fridge team then delivers the meals to the refrigerators placed around D.C. They sanitize the refrigerators before filling them up with up to 100 meals. Finally, the restaurants that provide the food are reimbursed for their meals through a nonprofit called WeCare. 

“Feed the Fridge is an innovative approach to solving hunger. By placing refrigerators filled with free ready to eat meals daily, by definition, it solves hunger,” said Marci Bucher, founder of Feed the Fridge and entrepreneur of Medium Rare.

“We receive money through our website. That money is used to buy meals from local restaurants that fill the fridges daily. Highest impact on hunger in 25 years— school grades and attendance are up,” Bucher said. 

The program began last December and has delivered more than 75,000 meals, with their goal being to reach 500,000 by the end of the year. They also plan to expand to Los Angeles and Miami. 

The refrigerators are free for anyone to access and contain nutritional meals. Feed the Fridge also hands out meals to seniors who cannot leave their homes. Some of the meals include pasta, grilled chicken sandwiches, and fajitas. 

“Demand was immediate, underscoring that seniors and families alike needed long-term, reliable and nutritious daily meals,” wrote executive director Leah Baker in a letter. 

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The program initially started because Mark Bucher tweeted on the Medium Rare restaurant page. At first, Medium Rare employees would deliver the meals around D.C instead of using refrigerators. 

“When kids went to remote learning we had the idea to provide them lunches when schools were closed,” Bucher said. 

Over time, the program grew and Bucher found a more convenient way for people to access the food — refrigerators. Feed the Fridge refrigerators are now located in schools and recreational and community centers throughout Washington, D.C., Prince George’s County and Montgomery County, Maryland. 

“Food banks, community fridges and canned food drives have played a vital role in feeding people but have many shortcomings. Often recipients have difficulty using the hodge podge of donated goods, are unfamiliar with the food or lack basic equipment to make use of the ingredients,” Baker said. 

According to the organization’s website, “…we play a major role in solving hunger by transforming ‘food insecurity’ into ‘meal security.’” In addition, the meals are made with an equal balance of produce, protein, and carbohydrates. 

“Prepared meals are often of poor quality and nutritional value,” Baker said. “Waiting in line for food or taking free canned tuna is also an embarrassing and stigmatized experience for families and college students and others who are food insecure. 

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“From the very beginning, volunteers have come out in droves to deliver, clean and prepare fridges and find the communities where meal security was most needed, and help get meals in fridges.”

Copy edited by Lauryn Wilson

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