At the onset of the pandemic, our parent company, True Manufacturing, partnered with AJ Madison to donate a 54” size state-of-the-art Slide Door Refrigerator to the Community Free Food Fridge Project. The donation, spurred in part by the effects of the pandemic on various communities, is part of an effort originally started by Thadeaus Umpster of A New World In Our Hearts, a collective created to combat food insecurity and promote food justice.
In a serendipitous twist of fate, Umpster’s venture, the Community Free Food Fridge Project, actually began with a True refrigerator. In early February 2020, the entrepreneur took advantage of a free (True) refrigerator he found on Craigslist to help serve a weekly food share he helps run, but when it couldn’t fit through his door, he decided to leave it outside. When food donations arrived a few days late, Umpster plugged it in and advertised the stored food as free—and so the project began. Today, there are over 60 fridges all over New York City and growing, all designed to serve communities in need.
As an American-made, family-owned company, True’s mission has always been to support Americans in meaningful ways. During the course of the pandemic, our country’s problem with food waste and various communities’ inaccessibility to basic everyday foodstuffs has not only worsened drastically, but has become increasingly more apparent. According to the U.S. Food & Drug administration, food waste in the United States is estimated at between 30–40% of the food supply. With millions of unemployed Americans worrying about not having a sustainable food source and/or relying on food banks, we felt compelled to help in any way possible. When we learned through AJ Madison that the Community Free Food Fridge Project was in need of a unit with enough space to store large amounts of food yet also function year-round both in indoor and outdoor settings, we leapt to action. Helping everyday Americans have access to well-refrigerated foods was important to both our companies.
The 54” commercial unit, now called the Peoples Peoples Fridge, is installed in an underserved area in Harlem and is open and available to anyone in need 24/7. A true community initiative, local volunteers each work to source food from local farmers, restaurants, supermarkets, and more to fill the fridge and help community members in need. “The refrigerator is so perfect for this project—it’s a top-of-the-line unit. With its glass doors, you can see everything we have to offer at any given time,” says Sade Boyewa El, of The Harlem Community Fridge. “It’s as if you were going shopping. We fill the fridge three times a day sometimes, it’s a staple. Who wouldn’t want a fridge like that to offer their community, it’s a beautiful experience.” We agree!