Students Tackle Food Insecurity in Community

POUGHKEEPSIE – What started as a project to address food insecurity in Oakwood’s Literature of Direct Action class has grown into a community collaboration with Poughkeepsie Public Library District (PPLD) and the installation of Poughkeepsie’s first Community Fridge at Adriance Memorial Library. Students have been working hard since May meeting with non-profit leaders, elected officials and community members to find locations for their two donated fridges, which led to the partnership with the library.

Seniors Theo Hirmes, Kishi Oyagi, and Trevor Brooks who coordinate the project shared the impetus for the community fridge, “Accessibility is important – fridges are an incredibly accessible way for the community to share food with one another. They are available most of the day, don’t have limits on how much food someone can take, avoid the stigma attached to food pantries, and are decentralized and non-hierarchical, since they rely on community members supporting each other rather than a gatekeeping charity organization.”

Community fridges began to be used during the pandemic to distribute food without gathering large groups together. Community organizations have built several networks of fridges in the Hudson Valley, including in New Paltz, Kingston, and Beacon. The Poughkeepsie Community Fridge receives regular donations from groups like the Poughkeepsie Farm Project (PFP) and Kelly’s Bakery, but it is also supported by individuals.

The fully stocked fridge of Poughkeepsie’s first Community Fridge at Adriance Memorial Library.
The fully stocked fridge of Poughkeepsie’s first Community Fridge at Adriance Memorial Library.

According to research done by Poughkeepsie Plenty, an anti-hunger organization working to eliminate food insecurity locally, 1 in 4 households in the City of Poughkeepsie are food insecure by USDA standards. This is higher than the national average of 1 in 6. Even more worrisome, 1 in 10 households suffer from severe food insecurity, meaning they often go hungry.

Sharing about their weekly donation to the Poughkeepsie Community Fridge, PFP’s Food Share Coordinator Justin Saret, said, “it’s exciting to see a new food access initiative bringing the community together, especially in a time when a lot of service organizations are struggling with staffing and capacity.”

The fridge, as well as shelves for nonperishable items, are located on the ground floor of Adriance Memorial Library at 93 Market Street in Poughkeepsie. It is designed to build community and offers free food for anyone, with no restrictions, available whenever the library is open: currently 9 a.m.-9 p.m. weekdays, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturdays, 2-5 p.m. Sundays. All people are welcome to put food in or take it out. The motto is “take what you need, leave what you can.” Guidelines are posted on the fridge about what to put in: all kinds of food are welcome, but allergens and expiration dates must be labeled.

TJ Lamanna, the library’s Head of Community Engagement shared, “The Poughkeepsie Public Library District is thrilled to have partnered with Oakwood Friends School to install a community fridge in our Adriance branch. We believe the library is a community hub and we want our services to reflect that. If the library recognizes a need in our community, we will always do our best to work with community organizations like Oakwood to do what we can to help.”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email