Is the free fridge the new soup kitchen? There is growing evidence—the latest of which comes all the way from Delhi, India—that this is indeed the case.
What is a free fridge you ask? It's not a refrigerator that you get to keep for free. Instead, it is a refrigerator stocked by do-gooders—often a church, restaurant, or community group—with food. Those in need can hit it up for free.
The latest example of this set up, also known as a "food ATM," can now be found in New Delhi, the capital city of India. That metropolis is home to some 16.3 million people and 52 percent of them live in slums, according to a recent study.
Earlier this week, the Mar Gregorious Orthodox Church of Delhi set up a fridge stocked with sandwiches, fresh fruits, and cold water. They say it will be available this coming summer to anyone in need. Although the fridge has only been in place for five days, it has become so popular that the food is wiped out each morning within a few hours.
The Church is located in the Janakpuri neighborhood of west Delhi. The fridge is said to be especially popular with the rickshaw drivers and laborers who work there. Sad as it is to report, many school children have also been hitting up the free fridge to keep their stomachs full during the school day.
The inevitable question arises: Is this a real solution to the problem of hunger in Delhi?
Well, maybe not just this one fridge. After all, as the aforementioned report on Delhi's poor revealed, "The nutritional status of the urban poor in Delhi is a matter of concern. Delhi has 35.4 percent stunted, 15.5 percent wasted and 33.1 percent underweight children under the age of three." All this is "despite being a state with the second highest per capita income in India." Needless to say, hunger is a horrific problem all over India and much of the rest of the world.
Still, refrigerators stocked with free food are becoming a thing worldwide.
In Ghent, Belgium, a fridge known as Freego is stocked daily by one Stef Mintiens, a doctor and herbalist who fills it with fresh, homemade food. Mintiens told us he was inspired by a photo he once saw of a dude in Saudi Arabia who put a cupboard on the wall in his garden, and "people who didn't have a lot to live on could take leftovers."
Likewise, in the Basque country in Spain, one gentleman set up a so-called "solidarity fridge" filled with food that would otherwise go to waste. He got the idea from an organization in Germany called Foodsharing, which helps connect the needy with surplus food.
So refrigerators wrested from their usual environment inside private homes and filled with free food, are proliferating worldwide. Are they the sorely needed answer to worldwide hunger and food waste?
Maybe. Maybe not. But, in any event, they're a start.