Grand Opening of the Food Justice Fridge Saturday
“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” - paraphrased from Mahatma Gandhi
In Clifton, one young woman is making her mark by leading the effort to bring fresh, locally sourced food to the community. It’s called the Food Justice Fridge and is the work of Clifton High School senior Marri Gebril.
Gebril was collaborating with BLM Paterson on their Silk-City Fridge and found herself reaching for more opportunities to be civically engaged. When circumstances led her to part from that group, she wrestled with the grief that loss of community brings and sought a new direction. Gebril had already thought a lot about the impact of climate change on hunger, having interned at City Green during her sophomore year with a capstone project that dealt with this topic. The Food Justice Fridge Initiative is Gebril’s love song to her communities - Clifton, where she lives and studies, and Passaic, which she once called home and where she still has family and friends.
The website Gebril set up answers the “why” of this initiative - “The ongoing financial struggles brought on by COVID-19 make it all the more vital for families to have access to free, high-quality food that are difficult to obtain in their communities due to factors such as segregation, global warming, inflation, and poverty, all of which perpetuate malnutrition. Our solution, The Food Justice Fridge Initiative (FJF), aims to empower families affected by poverty, food apartheid, and climate change to lead better lives by providing them with the freedom of choice. To choose the nutritious food they need, but cannot conveniently access. When families begin to shift to healthier diets, their chances of health-related illnesses, high medical bills, and doctor visits decrease.”
In partnership with City Green, Smile for Charity, United Passaic Organization, and Boys and Girls Club Passaic, Gebril’s project aims to bring culturally appropriate, nutrient-rich, fresh produce to her neighbors who might be struggling with food insecurity. “Not only do we aim to curb intertwined struggles of food insecurity and poverty, but also food waste (over ⅓ of produced food is thrown away, wasting 30 million tons of food in the US alone), supermarket redlining, and climate change,” she said.
The Food Justice Fridge is located at the Boys and Girls Club in Passaic at 14 Hudson Street, alongside an in-progress shelter for storing pantry items that do not need refrigeration. The site is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. “Hunger is 24/7,” Gebril said. Stop and Shop stocks the fridge on Mondays, City Green adds local produce on Fridays, and other local organizations have been taking turns on Wednesdays. Donations are needed and welcome; you can stop by at any time and drop off food in the fridge or the pantry. There is also a GoFundMe account to help with the costs of this community fridge and pantry. Security cameras are trained on the area but Gebril said that they haven’t had any trouble and neighbors are keeping an eye on things. Gebril said that approximately 200-250 people have benefitted from the FJF in just one month.
Tomorrow, November 4th, the FJF Initiative will be celebrating with a Grand Opening! Join Marri Gebril and other organizers from 10 am - 12 noon at 14 Hudson Street, Passaic for an official opening. There will be activities, games, face painting, community resources, stocking of the fridge, and more! Please go out and visit this new resource and tell your friends and neighbors about it, too.
“This journey,” Gebril said, “taught me to find patience in the present, unity within my community, and optimism for the future and I’m truly blessed to have the support to pioneer this project.”