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January 03, 2023

Mount Airy community fridge to provide food to residents in need

The pantry will be accessible 24/7 beginning Sunday, Jan. 8; there are more than two dozen places to donate shelf-stable items across Philadelphia

As some Philadelphians struggle with food insecurity exacerbated by inflation and the COVID-19 pandemic, Mount Airy residents are contributing to the neighborhood's new community-fueled free pantry. 

The Mount Airy Community Pantry and Fridge will open to the public on Sunday, Jan. 8 at 12:30 p.m. Located on the property of the Unitarian Universalists of Mt. Airy, the community pantry will be accessible to the public 24/7 with no registration or income verification required.

The pantry will provide shelf-stable dry goods, produce, menstrual products, sexual health items, diapers and pre-packaged baby food to anyone in need. Beginning in February, a fridge will be installed in order to allow pantry organizers to provide frozen food, perishable items and home-cooked meals to the public. 

Members of the community can take what they need and leave what they can to support their neighborhood. Those who can't bring food to the pantry but still want to support it can provide cash donations or purchase food for the pantry through this online wishlist. There are also volunteer opportunities available for those looking to get involved with mutual aid. 

The Mount Airy pantry is the latest in a network of community fridges and pantries that have been installed throughout Philadelphia in recent years as a way to mitigate food insecurity and provide nourishing meals to neighbors and residents. The fridge model became a popular form of mutual aid in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, as residents looked for ways to support one another amid unprecedented hardship. 

Interest and volunteering was initially high, but has dropped off as residents returned to jobs, schools and businesses in the wake of the relaxed pandemic guidelines. Still, demand at food banks remains high, especially as supply chain issues and food costs have impacted residents at all income levels. 

"A lot of people are feeling the pinch of rising food costs, inflation," Chelsea Short, director of marketing and communications at Philabundance, told the Inquirer. "It's really hitting homes hard, even families that haven't utilized the pantries before." 

In November, organizers at Philabundance, Bebashi, the Share Food Program and Mama-Tee Community Fridge Project reported 40-100% increases in demand ahead of the holiday season.

Hunger is a major issue in Philadelphia. About 10% of households in the city are food insecure, meaning they lack access to sufficient food to meet their basic needs. Up to 70% of those households live below the federal poverty line, according to the Mount Airy Community Pantry. 

Across the city, 20% of menstruating teens experience period poverty, meaning they experience difficulties in accessing and affording products like sanitary pads and tampons. The country was struck by a tampon shortage in 2022, which underscored existing gaps in access to personal hygiene products, particularly among those living in poverty and those without access to housing.

There are plenty of food pantries and community fridges across Philadelphia for those experiencing food insecurity. Check out a few below, or find a food bank using this searchable tool

The Fridge on 52nd St.: 125 S. 52nd St.
Coral Street Fridge: 670 Coral St.
East Falls Community Fridge: 3507 Midvale Ave.
Germantown Community Fridges: 20 W. Armat St., 19 E. High St. 
South Philadelphia Community Fridge: 1901 S. Ninth St., 1200 S. 21st St., 516 Wolf St., 1542 S. Cleveland St., 1701 S. 15th St., 1149 S. Ninth St.
Umoja Community Fridge: 2206 W. Jefferson St. 
Care Fridge Philly: 1219 Vine St.
Spring Garden Community Pantry: 1924 Spring Garden St.
Mama-Tee Pop-Up Grocery: 2400 Coral St., 1255 E. Palmer St., 2401 E. Letterly St., 3231 N. Second St., 1717 W. Hunting Park Ave., 5524 Haverford Ave., 4600 Woodland Ave., 3033 W. Glenwood Ave., 234 Winona St., 2015 Fairmount Ave., 5801 Kingsessing Ave., 2204 Washington Ave.
Fridges & Family: 1149 S. Ninth St., 1940 Liacouras Walk, 7044 Woodland Ave.