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  • Jennifer Ojilere

Mattapan Community Fridge Serves Local Residents In Need

The pandemic has led to a scramble for the basic necessities of life. For some, it was toilet paper and cloth masks. For others, including people right here in the Boston-area, families and citizens remain in desperate need of food. So if you’re looking for a way to help others or to get some help yourself, Nikkia Jean-Charles has just the thing for you.

At the end of March of 2020, Jean-Charles opened a community fridge on Blue Hill Avenue in Mattapan after neighborhood activists began stocking food into the roadside refrigerator for people in need. Located in one of Boston’s most diverse neighborhoods, this colorful fridge reads ‘free food’ for all its customers.

For those unfamiliar with community fridges, they’re quite a common urban resource. From fresh produce to home-cooked meals, community fridges offer free food for those in need. Relying mainly on donations from fellow passersby, community fridges are typically run by volunteers who overlook fridge maintenance and food transportation. Community fridges are publicly accessible and supplies are almost completely sourced from local generosity.

So far, the Mattapan community fridge has taken on some helping hands, with about 15 volunteers taking care of the fridge and the pantry cupboard built-in next to it in the shelter.

The fridge has made a significant impact on the community thus far. Much of the food that people put in during the first few days is gone, but it has been continually replaced with new contributions from people in the area.

“At the end of the day, we just want people in our community healthy,” Jean-Charles told the Boston Herald. “We don’t have enough resources in our community without showing your Social Security card, so we just wanted to directly help people.”

Still, the pandemic continues to provide challenges while already existing issues worsen for many people in the community. With the economic impact of the pandemic taking its toll, Jean-Charles says there seems to be a higher demand for milk, eggs, butter, bread, and much more.

She does her best, however, to supply Mattapan with hardworking volunteers by her side. Jean Charles has not only opened this fridge in a struggling community, but has also hosted food drives, with the most recent of which being held in February.

She and her fellow volunteers’ efforts have gotten the attention of Fatima Ali-Salaam, the chair of the Greater Mattapan Neighborhood Council, who praised the young activists and council members for getting the fridge up and running.

“I had put eight containers, and people took like seven in one day,” Ali-Salaam, who has brought some prepared meals, said. “It’s a big help to people.”

What’s next for Mattapan Community Fridge? Donations, donations, donations. With your help, Jean-Charles and her volunteers can get your resources directly to the people who need it most.

Jean Charles’ work, however, is far from over.

Locally, she’s already thinking of where to put the next fridge — probably somewhere around Roxbury. Being another historically overlooked majority-Black neighborhood, Jean-Charles can see a community fridge making great strides for the wellbeing of the neighborhood.


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