“Go away what you may, take what you want.”
That’s the motto for the Silk Metropolis Neighborhood Fridge, a fridge on Primary Avenue in Paterson that’s open to the general public. Anybody can donate meals, and anybody can take meals freed from cost, no questions requested.
The fridge, which will be discovered exterior of Fats Boys Sandwich Store, was based by the group Black Lives Matter Paterson, which took its inspiration from comparable ideas popping up in underserved cities throughout the nation. In 2020, for instance, members of the Jersey Metropolis group started two community fridges which are nonetheless operating at the moment — one on the West Facet and one in Greenville.
The group United Neighborhood Company additionally lately opened a group fridge in Newark’s East Ward.
“COVID-19 deeply impacted the Paterson group,” mentioned Zellie Thomas, a BLM Paterson organizer. “We needed to create one other establishment to have the ability to combat in opposition to meals insecurity.”
BLM Paterson began researching begin a group fridge in late 2020, then linked with organizations operating them in different components of the state and nation. The group additionally collaborated with the Palestinian Neighborhood Middle.
“They taught us what labored and what didn’t work for them so we wouldn’t make the identical errors,” Thomas mentioned. The group hoped to keep away from individuals stealing, damaging the fridge or hoarding meals.
However the method wasn’t with out its difficulties. The fridge first opened in January 2021. After a number of weeks, the organizers have been compelled to shut it down as a result of the Well being Division objected to the fridge, Thomas mentioned. BLM Paterson wound up assembly with the Well being Division a number of occasions to get permits wanted to maintain the fridge open.
“We mentioned, ‘We all know this can be a good service for the group. What can we do to make you perceive that we’re doing it in a hazard-free method?’ ” Thomas mentioned. In mid-2021, the Silk Metropolis fridge reopened.
With a number of months of operations underneath its belt, BLM Paterson continues to construct its workforce of volunteers to do grocery pickups to restock the fridge. Neighborhood members may also cease by and drop off meals.
“We’ve lots of people who simply went to the grocery retailer for themselves and determined to choose up some stuff for us,” Thomas mentioned. The fridge is often stocked with the fundamentals: bread, milk, eggs, lunch meats and cheeses. Different meals gadgets out there depend upon the day.
“We had conversations with people who find themselves houseless in the neighborhood to see what they want,” Thomas mentioned. “A number of them mentioned they don’t have kitchens to cook dinner meals. So having bread and cheese and lunch meat is a good choice.”
A key a part of the continued success of the fridge, he mentioned, is group cooperation. The day earlier than it opened, BLM Paterson members canvassed the neighborhood, ringing doorbells and handing out fliers (together with masks and hand sanitizer) asserting the opening of the Silk Metropolis fridge to individuals within the space.
Then, the day of the “grand opening,” BLM handed out sandwiches to everybody who got here by.
“The group got here to guard it and find it irresistible. They self-regulate it,” Thomas mentioned. There aren’t volunteers out there, he added, to control the fridge always. So having it watched by the group has been an asset to keep away from harm to the fridge or meals hoarding.
“Individuals dealing with meals insecurity don’t know the place their subsequent meal is coming from,” Thomas mentioned. “When the fridge first got here, they needed to get as a lot meals as doable, as a result of they didn’t understand how lengthy it was going to final. However being in keeping with the meals, we have been in a position to combat again that concern.”
Organizations can contact BLM Paterson to sponsor the fridge and supply meals for a time frame. Of us fascinated with donating can drop off grocery gadgets within the fridge or donate cash to BLM Paterson, which buys groceries a number of occasions per week.
Stated Thomas, “We hope to proceed this fridge and begin new fridge tasks in different components of town.”
Rebecca King is a meals author for NorthJersey.com. For extra on the place to dine and drink, please subscribe at the moment and join our North Jersey Eats newsletter.