From the Friends of the Fridge:
Maplewood, NJ – April 12, 2023 — The Maplewood Community Refrigerator and Pantry, located at 1916 Springfield Ave at the corner of Indiana, was founded in November 2021 to provide food to food-insecure individuals and families. Recently, due to rising food costs and reductions in SNAP benefits, the demand for its services has increased. “The fridge” and pantry is a simple structure, consisting of a public refrigerator and dry goods shelving, encased in a blue shed.
The fridge is open 24/7 and is stocked often through donations from generous neighbors including Allison who drops off a trunk load of popular items such as peanut butter, cereal, frozen dinners, canned soups, fresh produce, milk, cheese, and eggs more than once a week despite supporting herself on a supermarket clerk salary. “I have been hungry. I understand what it means to go without, and this is my chance to give back” she says of her on-going commitment to this important neighborhood resource.
Another recent and dedicated supporter is Adelina Krasniqi, who posts frequently on Maplewood-specific Facebook pages to raise funds through Venmo and takes her children on frequent shopping trips with those funds. She has collected over $2,500 and one hundred percent of donations raised has gone toward food purchases for the fridge. She plans to keep supporting this effort as long as the community keeps supporting her. “It’s really important to us as a family that we can give back to our community, and the community fridge has given us an incredible opportunity to show our children the importance of giving back. We started with a small fund-raising effort with our friends and family and are so grateful that a few months into it, so many members of the community continue to contribute to a project our children are part of.”
Foot traffic at the fridge has visibly increased. Needy neighbors are often waiting for new donations, and items tend to be taken quickly. Those picking up at the fridge appreciate that the food is available anonymously with no questions asked. This has been particularly helpful to those without documentation who may not be able to access traditional food pantries.
While organizations such as MEND (Meeting Essential Needs with Dignity) and Kiwanis of South Orange Maplewood offer frequent support, most contributions have come from residents in the community who bring surplus items from their homes or buy a little extra on their grocery shopping runs. Many locals have held neighborhood food drives. Midland Blvd. residents collected enough food and cash donations to fill the fridge and pantry three times. Scout troops have also filled the fridge, and businesses along Springfield have delivered surplus items. There is an adjacent parking lot to the fridge, making it very convenient to pick up and drop off items.
“Friends of the Fridge”, a small group of volunteers, is helping the Township spread the word and create awareness about the refrigerator and pantry’s location and the increased need for more donations. The Maplewood Health Department, along with the Maplewood Community Garden are holding a canned food drive for the fridge on April 21 from 9AM-4:30PM at Town Hall. Friends of the Fridge plans to collect food items at the Springfield Avenue Partnership’s MayFest 2023 street fair along Springfield Avenue in Maplewood on May 21st between 11AM-5PM. The table will be located at the fridge on Springfield Ave at Indiana. Fresh items are in high demand, but any non-expired food donations are appreciated. Friends of the Fridge are also offering pick-up service for donations of one or more bags of groceries. And if you’d like to help Adelina’s family’s effort to continue to fill the fridge, you can Venmo her @adelina-krasniqi. All this information is on the Facebook page for the fridge.
Accepted foods for the refrigerator are fresh produce, frozen items like vegetables, fruits and pre-packaged meals like lasagna, eggs, milk, butter, cheese and yogurt. Pantry items accepted include bread, peanut butter, jelly, oatmeal, cereal, rice, pasta, tomato sauce, soups, tuna and canned fruits and vegetables. Residents need not stick to these items; they can provide whatever they are moved to donate as long as it is not opened or expired, and raw meat is not accepted. To serve more people, it is suggested that bulk items such as oranges, bananas, and potatoes should be separated into smaller portions.
Maplewood’s Director of Community Services, Melissa Mancuso, shares:
“Since the inception of the Community Fridge on November 13, 2021, our community has shown up, to the benefit of the many! We are grateful for the many Girl Scout Troops, Neighborhood Associations, community partners and residents who’ve helped us sustain this endeavor in Maplewood.
“Our goal has always been to offer fresh and healthy options including fresh vegetables and fruits that may be hard to find at other pantries, on a 24/7 basis. The success of the Community Fridge is due to so many people caring about the food insecure, and everyone reaching out in partnership over the common goal of keeping the fridge full!
“I’m very proud of this project, which was brought to us as an idea from Youth Advisory Committee a few years ago and championed by Mayor Dean Dafis. We have pivoted and learned so much along the way, but the department’s goal has always been to offer food 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and thankfully we are still able to carry this mission forward. We are striving to get the word out more donations to the fridge, and due to its accessibility, we truly take donations at any time. I’ve met so many grateful recipients of food at the Community Fridge, and we are truly as a township providing a service that did not exist previously. Thank you to everyone who has kept the momentum going, including of course this grassroots group who has been an integral part of our ongoing success. Thank you, Friends of the Fridge, for your unrelenting support.”
To donate, drop off accepted items directly at the fridge 24/7 at 1916 Springfield Avenue at the corner of Indiana. You may also contact the Maplewood Community Services Department at 973-762-8120 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org (Melissa Mancuso).