Lauren Hume ’16 saw an empty refrigerator and decided to fill it. What started out as a simple gesture of kindness has blossomed into a weekly activity that is supported by a team of altruistic people from all over the globe.
Hume, who is a nurse at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, learned from one of her friends about the Mama-Tee Community Fridge Project, a joint effort led by women of color. The goal of this project is to help those who are in need of food. The organizers promote free food as a healthier alternative to seeking food out of garbage cans. The community fridge project provides sustainable food for those in communities of color in the city of Philadelphia.
The organization has placed bright-yellow painted refrigerators at various locations throughout the city and everyday people are filling them. The concept is clear, take what you need and leave what you don’t. The goal is to make fresh food more accessible, cut down on waste, and create a more equitable city. Currently, there are seven refrigerators located throughout Philadelphia.
When Hume first opened one of these refrigerators, it was empty. So she went to a nearby Target store and purchased enough food to fill it.
“I opened the refrigerator and there wasn’t much food in there. I couldn’t imagine not having enough food,” Hume said. “It makes me sad that people are struggling, but it makes me happy that they are finding them (refrigerators) and using them.”
After her first refrigerator stocking, Hume realized she could not afford to keep filling them, using only her own money. Fortunately, she did not have to worry about how to keep her weekly trips financed. She posted about these refrigerators on her Facebook, Instagram and TikTok accounts. Soon friends and strangers started sending her money via Venmo to help cover the cost of restocking. The donations ranged from ten cents to $100 and came from as far away as France.
In the process of refilling the refrigerators, Hume has become more of a savvy and frugal shopper. She now shops at Aldi, which has better prices, so she is able to purchase more groceries.
“I always get pre-package salads, baby food, chicken breast, grilled chicken, sliced turkey and grab-and-go items,” said Hume of her grocery shopping runs.