Sense of Community is on the Rise While Governments Fail to Protect People

Community Support BELatina Latinx
Free food fridges are popping up around New York City to help those struggling with food insecurities. Laura Alvarez

The U.S government is astonishingly failing to protect the population from human rights’ violations, COVID-19, police brutality, and climate change. Still, Donald Trump insists on continuing living in the White House for four more years or even five based on one of his recent tweets. But despite the incompetence of the current administration, communities across the nation are coming together to keep small businesses alive, people fed, and kids are taken care of.

Empathetic communities that can be considered as judge-free zones, uplift each other daily, whether is posting positive messages on social media or hanging posters from their balconies and windows, promoting small businesses or advocating for mental health, and even filling refrigerators outside their homes with food for those in need. These people do it for the love of neighbor and respect for human lives.  

One of those social media initiatives that have been created to promote local businesses during the pandemic is Only in Kendall on Instagram. The account, managed by Miami News Today, serves as a guide and shares the best restaurants in the area, including those who unfortunately had to close its doors. Known for being a predominantly  Latinx community, the people of Kendall an unincorporated community in Miami-Dade County, Florida are also donating food and being conscious of how to invest in the area.

On the Northeast Coast of the United States, more specifically in New York City, Thadeus Umpster from In Our Hearts NYC came out with the idea of stocking “friendly fridges” with free food outside his apartment building in Brooklyn, after buying a fridge too big for his place. After this initiative went viral, other citizens and business owners across all the five boroughs implemented the idea in their communities. 

From Brooklyn to Harlem, to the Bronx’s Fieldston neighborhood, people like Laura Alvarez and Selma Raven and Sara Allen got inspired and also decided to give back to those in need. 

“I’ve been in the situation of not having money to buy food. That’s tough, but you don’t want to ask for help,” Laura Alvarez, artist, and co-founder of BxArts Factory, told Insider. “Having something for people to access without having to ask for it is so important. So many people have come by and take a few things or leave things.”

“There were a lot of older people. That also touches me because you don’t know what they’re going through,” Alvarez said.

 

Local bodegas are also making their part by allowing people to plug some of these fridges outside their doors. Each refrigerator is filled and sanitized daily, and isn’t rare to find anonymous donations. 

“This morning, we walked over there, and there were five bottles of Sunny Delight,” Raven said. “There was a mom that was so happy to see that Sunny Delight.” 

According to The New York Times, since February at least 14 community fridges are being stocked and placed on the sidewalks with “Free Food” written across and “Comida Gratis,” in Spanish, on its side. Every single person who opens the fridge can grab whatever they need, no questions asked. 

“We don’t know everyone’s story,” Raven said. “We’re really just trusting them.”

“We’re seeing a lot of essential workers, home care workers. They just pick up one or two items and put it in their bag,” she continued. “People don’t have that budget right now.” 

But food is not the only thing new yorkers are donating.

Each Friday (time permitting), from noon to 5 pm at Lafayette & Marcy in BedStuy, the Brooklyn Free Store offers books, food, household goods, new bags, and new clothing as well as second hand. According to the organizers “the idea of the Free Store is simple: take whatever you can use, bring whatever you can give that someone else could use. It is a model for another way of living without money and without scarcity.”

According to the Los Angeles Times, community fridges are also popping on the west coast, thanks to the Los Angeles Community Fridges aid network. Like in New York, these clean and running refrigerators are sustained by businesses, organizations, and individuals, and as reported by the newspaper they were inspired by activist collective A New World in Our Hearts. 

“Food scarcity is a myth, and our communities deserve to be fed,” said Julia Lebow, a 25-year-old organizer with L.A. Community Fridges. “This is a really special moment because of coronavirus and because of this moment of upheaval and revolution, I think a lot of people are really looking for a way to be involved and better their communities in particular,” she continued. 

The fridges are running 24/7 and, according to the Los Angeles Times, they’re not being policed or regulated by anyone an important given fact for many people secretly struggling. California is the state with the largest immigrant population in the U.S., and this type of food distribution service even helps the undocumented to feed themselves and their families. 

“A lot of people don’t seek out aid because of their [immigration] status,” said Marina Vergara, an organizer with L.A. Community Fridges and head of operations at Reach for the Top. “There’s no doubt in my mind. There’s so much pride that people have, and seeking assistance strips that away,” she added.

Ian Cohen, also working with the network, told the Los Angeles Times that everything that comes out of the refrigerator is from the community and not the effort of a single organization, and definitely is not charity. 

“We aren’t gifting anything. We’re just putting resources where they need to go because those resources are available. The issue is just getting them efficiently distributed,” Cohen said. 

Similarly, another way of giving back is also to protect.

Recently, BELatina reported on a group of more than 30 moms who took to the streets to protect Black Lives Matter protests in Portland, Oregon. Linking up their arms to one another in an attempt to create a wall, the brave moms blocked federal officers and avoided them to have access to the protestors, while chanting: “Feds stay clear! Moms are here!”

Although 2020 has been a rocky year, good people are still committed to show up and take good care of their communities at all costs. 

If you are willing to keep the momentum and haven’t had the opportunity to donate or you don’t know where to start, we encourage you to visit one of these “friendly fridges” or other donation sites and drop whatever you think will make someone in need happy.