The newest addition to the Newton Food Pantry’s community freedge is a Welcome Home box. In partnership with Welcome Home, the box allows people to take household items like mugs, towels, and blankets as they need.
The community freedge, located at 420 Watertown St. in parking lot space donated by Central Drapery and Dry Cleaning owner Mark Levine, opened in February to provide free refrigerated and pantry items 24/7. A part of a nationwide free fridge movement, the Newton Community Freedge aims to fight food insecurity while also allowing anonymity for those taking from the fridge.
“The idea is that someone who may be suffering from food insecurity may benefit from other social services … they might need dishes or plates or utensils to eat the food that they’re getting from the freedge,” Regina Wu, director of the Newton Food Pantry, said. “I do suspect that we probably have some homeless that are coming to use the fridge, and it kind of makes sense [to] have the two resources there on the same site.”
Welcome Home helped to install the white Welcome Home box beside the freedge on Oct. 17, according to Wu and Julie Plaut Mahoney, board president and executive director of Welcome Home. The sign on top of the box asks patrons to select two items for their home and says the box is restocked several times a week.
Volunteers Gail Shine and Sarah Housman will stock the box three times a week with items from Welcome Home, according to Plaut Mahoney.
“The thing about the fridge and the box [is] it’s not staffed, and it’s really meant to be dignifying and that people can come and take items, and you’ll hope it’s being used responsibly,” Plaut Mahoney said.
Since implementing the box, Plaut Mahoney said that every time the box has been restocked, it has been emptied.
Providing multiple resources in one place helps to make the lives of those in need easier, Wu said. For people who would like to donate items, Wu said they can bring items directly to Welcome Home.
“One stop shopping, I imagine, would really be a useful thing for people in need of these resources instead of having to go here and there across town to get what they need to have it all in one place,” Wu said.
Welcome Home and the Newton Food Pantry have a longstanding partnership, according to Plaut Mahoney and Wu. When Plaut Mahoney first heard about the community fridge movement, she said she knew Welcome Home had to get involved, as it is closely related to the organization’s philosophy.
“It seemed kind of like a natural kind of segue to consider when we open the freedge that maybe supplying small houseware items like dishes and cups and silverware might be something useful to users of the freedge,” Wu said. “And so we had talked about it but knew that that was kind of a second-tier step after we got the fridge up and launched and working well.”
Plaut Mahoney said she envisions Welcome Home boxes at as many community fridges as possible. Plaut Mahoney also said that people who run community fridges should reach out to her to help establish more boxes for ease of access.
“We want to lower barriers to entry for people who are using and relying on social service agencies for food and home goods and diapers,” Plaut Mahoney said. “So that’s the 30,000-foot view here that anything we can do to lower lower barriers to entry, let people go on a schedule that works for them, don’t require them to complete cumbersome paperwork— that’s the 30,000-foot goal.”
Featured Image Courtesy of Julie Plaut Mahoney