Baton Rouge Community Fridges pop up on Government Street, fostering the idea of mutual aid

If you’ve driven along Government Street lately, you may have noticed some brightly colored sheds in front of the Yes We Cannibal art space and The Red Shoes nonprofit center. 

Though they seem small, these sheds house community fridges and pantries for all local residents. At the Baton Rouge Community Fridges, anyone is welcome to take what they need and give what they can in an effort to support those struggling with food insecurity. 

Inside the small sheds are fridges and freezers usually stocked with items like dairy products, frozen dinners and ready-to-eat meals. In the pantry portion of the shed, you can find nonperishable items like canned vegetables, soups and boxed pasta. 

The community fridge outside The Red Shoes nonprofit center
The fridges and freezers are stocked with items like dairy products, frozen dinners and ready-to-eat meals.

Baton Rouge Community Fridge volunteer and co-founder of Yes We Cannibal Mat Keel says the project came about after seeing similar fridges pop up in other big cities. Keel, who co-founded the fridge alongside a group of volunteers, says the fridges are all about mutual aid.

“To me, mutual aid is the non-transactional care for other people where you get nothing out of it,” Keel says. “It’s about caring for the survival of other people.”

Not long after the fridge outside Yes We Cannibal debuted at 1600 Government St. in Septembeer, another fridge popped up at The Red Shoes, 2303 Government St., in late October.

Wendy Herschman, executive director at The Red Shoes, says she was approached with the idea after getting an email about finding locations for community fridges in Baton Rouge. “We were on board from the beginning,” Herschman says. “I loved the idea from the start.”

Though all donations are welcome, Keel and Herschman say that some donations are more helpful than others. Items in high demand at both fridges are ready-to-eat meals, drinks, frozen meals and meal kits. Keel says people who use the fridges might not have the proper kitchen tools to prepare foods that require a lot of prep work. 

When donating to the community fridge, Keel hopes people will keep certain things in mind. “Surrender your expectations about what you think poverty is or the reasons why you think people use this fridge,” he says. “Put stuff that you would eat. Treat other people like human beings; don’t treat these fridges like you wouldn’t treat your own kitchen. And above all, be empathetic.”

The pantry section at Yes We Cannibal is intended for nonperishable items like canned vegetables, soups and boxed pasta.

Over at The Red Shoes’ location, Herschman says she hopes to see more donations of healthier foods like produce and fruits. “We want the fridge to be a vehicle for good,” she says. “We want people to care about what they’re putting in the fridge. It makes a huge difference in the health of the people who use the donations.”

Both Keel and Herschman hope more people hear about the fridges and spread the word. The more donations, the better. But they also want those in need to know of this free resource in their community. 

“These fridges tell people who often feel invisible that people out there care,” Herschman says. “You don’t have to jump through any hoops to get something you need. You just have to come open the shed door.”

Head over to Baton Rouge Community Fridges’ Instagram to find out more about how to help, what to donate and updates on both fridges.

The colorfully decorated shed outside Yes We Cannibal

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