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Local Newark agencies debut community refrigerator in East Ward
NEWARK, NJ – United Community Corporation, the New Jersey Children’s Foundation, the Presbytery of Northeast New Jersey and Newark Opportunity Youth Network introduced the collaboration’s first community refrigerator with a ribbon-cutting event on Friday, Jan. 21.
The refrigerator is located outside Wolff Memorial Presbyterian Church (106 Ann St., Newark, NJ 07105), a Presbytery of Northeast New Jersey site that also houses UCC’s free clothing boutique and Energy Assistance Department and is the first of four community refrigerators that this cohort plans to place throughout the city.
“One important lesson learned in the past year or two is that in order to meet the needs of a community experiencing poverty is to be able to meet them where they are” -UCC Executive Director, Craig Mainor
“One important lesson learned in the past year or two is that in order to meet the needs of a community experiencing poverty is to be able to meet them where they are,” UCC Executive Director Craig Mainor said. “This not only means, being able to be on the ground in general but also being on the ground in our clients’ neighbors. It means being available and accessible for those who are limited in mobility. This new approach to service those with food insecurities means that we are making it easier and more convenient for those families in need to get the much-needed food subsidies they need to survive.”
A second refrigerator will debut in the West Ward outside UCC’s administrative office (332 S 8th St., Newark, NJ 07103) in the coming weeks. The locations of the additional two refrigerators – made possible by funding from Partners In Health – are still to be determined as the organizations work together to hit each ward of Newark. The organizations joined Leaders For Life in the growing community refrigerator trend. Leaders For Life operates a refrigerator at 84 Clinton Place in the South Ward.
“Newark, represented by its wards, is full of a variety of resources,” New Jersey Children’s Foundation Director of External Affairs Galen Johnson said. “Placing this project in as many wards as possible gives everyone in the community access to an essential resource: food. I believe that there is a huge possibility for scalability so that even more community refrigerators can reach more neighborhoods throughout the city.”
UCC manages and maintains the refrigerators via UCC’s food pantry thanks to support from HelloFresh, Trader Joe’s, ShopRite, the Community FoodBank of New Jersey and MEND Hunger Relief. In addition to the refrigerator, the structure is equipped with plastic shelving to hold vegetables and non-perishable goods. There will also be a reading library added to increase literacy within the community. It is accessible to the public 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The idea is to have the entire community involved with residents and local businesses taking what they need and leaving what they can.
Those willing to donate food can simply drop it off at the refrigerator or order food from Amazon or InstaCart with the items sent to the refrigerator’s address. An online note should be left instructing the delivery driver to remove the items from their bags and place them in the refrigerator or shelves for non-perishable food.
”We at the Presbytery of Northeast New Jersey believed that this project is important to this community because we know that you do not have to be homeless or unemployed to face food insecurities in the home,” Community Ministry Organizer Elder Jerome B. Lane Jr. said. “You may not need a full box or bag of items from a food pantry but possibly a staple or two to add to what you already have. This refrigerator will be here 24 hours a day for you to take or leave items, no identification needed and questions or judgment.”
The refrigerator is encased in a weather-proof shelter that was designed and built by construction students that are part of UCC’s YouthBuild job training and preparedness program – dedicated to helping young adults aged 16-24 that may have dropped out of high school and/or are having trouble finding their way. Anyone interested in YouthBuild can email Jacqueline Henry at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“This was as enjoyable as it could possibly get because I do this specifically to help the kids learn,” UCC YouthBuild Construction Training Manager Darian Harris said. “For them to do this effortlessly and be able to contribute to the community that they live in is like killing two birds with one stone. As we do more projects like this that serve dual purposes, they’ll start to realize the importance of the actions that they take as they go through life.”
UCC’s community refrigerator project was made possible thanks to generous funding from the New Jersey Children’s Foundation, the Presbytery of Northeast New Jersey and Partners In Health, as well as support from Newark Opportunity Youth Network and Leaders For Life.