Kitchener’s community fridges get a funding boost as food insecurity persists

In July, a collection of “Friendly Fridges” emerged in New York, created by community artists and activists to provide free food to residents struggling with food insecurity during the pandemic.

The wave quickly set in in Kitchener in August when small business owner Michelle Nelson set up the “Mama Tea Community Fridge” at the intersection of Seventh Street and Girard Avenue in Kitchener’s Ludlow neighborhood.

After this issue, three more refrigerators appeared in various locations: People’s Fridge on 52nd Street in West Kitchener, Kitchener Community Fridge in South Kitchener, and Germantown Community Fridge.

Now the Health Partners Foundation (HPF), a community initiative of Health Partners Plans, announced its partnership with Mama-Tee and its Community Fridge Project to further combat food insecurity in the community. HPF donates $ 20,000 to Mama Tea to provide 20 community fridges to organizations across town.

The refrigerators are being placed in retirement homes and other organizations to combat chronic food insecurity. Community members can get what they need out of the fridges, which are stocked daily with fruits and vegetables from donors, including local restaurants, farms, and grocery brands. Once fully installed, these refrigerators can serve up to 900 people a day.

Al DÍA recently spoke to Staci Scott, President and CEO of HPF to learn more about these issues and why they decided to work with the Mama Tea team.

Find mom tea:

Scott was first made aware of Mama Tea through a news report and was immediately fascinated by the beautiful yellow refrigerators.

“Mama-Teas’ idea is so simple that it is brilliant,” said Scott.

Addressing food insecurity is one of the main tenets of the Health Partners Foundation. Through the initiative, Dr. Michelle Nelson gives those in need of it most access to free fruits and vegetables.

In the message Scott saw from Mama Tea, she called out her Instagram handle.

“So I sent her a message and she replied. The rest is history, ”said Scott.

Kitchener’s Food Insecurity:

The reality for many people in Kitchener is that they do not always have enough food to lead a healthy life. Food insecurity can be temporary or long-term, and some of its factors include unreliable incomes, higher cost of living, and limited access to traditional grocery stores.

“Unfortunately, many families have to choose between buying groceries or paying bills, which has recently been exacerbated by health and economic problems during the pandemic. However, food insecurity was at a crisis point in the Kitchener area long before the coronavirus pandemic left many Pennsylvanians unemployed, ”said Scott.

She also stressed that food insecurity varies from neighborhood to neighborhood. A recent CHOP study found that 10% of the children studied in Kitchener were food unsafe, compared with 4% in the surrounding suburbs.

“The study also found that more than 40% of families with unsafe food lived more than half a mile from a pantry and didn’t have a car to get there. This shows the real importance of having access to fresh food,” said Scott.

The effects of grassroots approaches led by the community::

Scott believes tackling food insecurity varies according to community needs, geographic location, and neighborhood capacity. However, successful community-based food security programs must have certain characteristics.

A successful program must have nutritious and culturally appropriate food available, preserve the dignity of the recipients, support local, regional, family and sustainable farmers and businesses, promote equitable access to resources, promote health and meet the food needs of all, especially those low income.

The future fight:

Currently, COVID-19 continues to limit HPF’s capabilities within the community, but its work is far from complete.

“We are so focused on the social determinants of health and improving community members’ access to things like quality food and decent housing.”

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