Cincinnati Has Their First Free ‘Take What You Need’ Fridge

Many people are experiencing difficult times these days due to the pandemic. Actually, there are also many who have been having problems for years prior to the pandemic occurring. For those who live in Cincinnati, they may just want to visit Vine Street in Over-the-Rhine.

There is a rainbow brick painted refrigerator on Vine Street that has a simple message on the front: “Take what you need. Leave what you can.” It is stocked with donated food and pantry staples from local businesses and others who want to help feed the homeless and those who are experiencing poverty in Cincinnati.

Matthew Grote is a local artist who painted the refrigerator for the official opening on Friday. It is the first free community refrigerator in Cincinnati, and you can find it at 1313 Vine Street.

The organizer for Fridge ETC, Jordan Tus, speaks about the simplicity of the refrigerator. At 29 years old, he has a vision of helping others and, according to Cincinnati, he says: “We can make what we want out of this project and keep supporting each other on a really foundational, deep level so that we can keep striving for change in Cincinnati.”

Other free fridge projects have taken place in different areas, including those set up by The Friendly Fridge BX in New York City. That organization has set up those free refrigerators across the region. In Los Angeles, a community did something similar and cities in other parts of the country are following suit.

The trend is now coming to Cincinnati, thanks to Tuss and her partners.

“There’s a huge need for basically taking food that would much… end up in a garbage dump, or somewhere in a waste facility, that’s still good and edible, and there’s tons of hungry people,” Tuss said to Cincinnati.

You will find locally sourced food in the refrigerator. Some of those who donate to Fridge ETC include Findlay Market’s ETC Produce & Provisions and Blue Oven Bakery and La Soupe. If those names sound familiar, it’s because they are connected.

Tuss has partnered with 36-year-old Toncia Chavez, the owner of ETC Produce & Provisions. Together, they made sure that Fridge ETC became a reality. There are also other partners associated with the movement, including the Triiibe Foundation and More Free 2020.

The Findlay Market store is stocked by Chavez with produce coming from her farm and Felicity, Ohio. The majority of the leftovers are used to feed her chickens but there is some food that can still be consumed by humans.

“We wanted… for that food to go somewhere,” Chavez said to the outlet.

According to Chavez, donations are accepted from other Findlay market stores and added to the fridge.

“I’m just hoping it gets embraced and really gets used,” Chavez said. “I’m hoping that we can cycle through some food that would be (thrown away).”

The fridge is only one of the things that is at 1313 Vine Street. There is also the More Free 2020 campaign on the other side of the building, which helps people to register for the November vote.

Siri Imani is a 25-year-old who is with the Triiibe Foundation and has nothing but good to say about the collaboration.

“It’s been beautiful to see people actually come to the space and interact,” Imani said according to Cincinnati. She continued:

“It’s a multi-purposeful space. So you got people getting registered, and you also got people getting support. And I think that those, like, direct correlations definitely are evident to people at that time.

It took people a minute to even believe that everything was free. But once they did, you know, you start seeing people coming, and they bring other people. And that was the… biggest thing I saw, was that word of mouth travels so quickly.”

The fridge will be monitored continuously according to Imani, although it is brought in for safety reasons at night.

According to Tuss, Fridge ETC wants to expand to other Cincinnati neighborhoods but will give priority to those who have a greater need for food. The organization is taking donations and looking for space where other fridges can be located.

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