On May 6, 2023, the Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission (SMADC) will open the first Southern Maryland Community Fridge in partnership with Christ Church Food Pantries in Charles County. This program aims to reduce food insecurity in the region while minimizing food waste.
With a grant from the Rural Maryland Council’s RMPIF fund and additional support from community partners, SMADC is piloting this program to provide free 24-hour access to locally-sourced food for those who need it.
Community Fridges have been successful in several cities nationwide, and now, Southern Maryland is joining the movement. These refrigerators are meant to serve as a free food source for individuals and households experiencing food insecurity, offering them access to fresh, healthy food that would otherwise go to waste.
The SoMD Community Fridge will be stocked with local products purchased weekly from qualified Southern Maryland farmers participating in SMADC’s Maryland Market Money Program. These farmers have excess local farm products they would like to sell, and this program allows them to diversify their revenue streams while also supporting their community.
Neal Bankenstein, Pupil Personnel Worker at the Charles County Board of Education, spoke about how the program is already making a difference. “This past week, a local family fell under harsh conditions due to a loss of utilities and income,” he said. “The family reached out to CCPS’s Pupil Personnel Workers who were thankful to receive support from the new Community Fridge zero-barrier free food program at Christ Church, La Plata. The support and love provided by Christ Church is greatly needed and appreciated by our families in need!”
The pilot program is already positively impacting the community, and SMADC hopes to expand it to other areas of Southern Maryland in the future. The Grand Opening of the Charles County Community Fridge will take place on May 6th from 2-2:30 PM. Still, food recovery is already happening at the Christ Church La Plata SoMD Community Fridge as part of a soft opening effort.
If you want to get involved, the program has some donation rules. You can donate whole fruits and vegetables, eggs, frozen meat, pre-packaged non-potentially hazardous foods, commercially packaged meals, and homemade goods following Maryland Cottage Food Laws. Donations must be labeled with all ingredients, package date, expiration date, and any allergens.
SMADC encourages Southern Maryland farmers interested in diversifying revenue streams and supporting local food access to contact them at SoMDFridges@smadc.com. All food and pantry donations can be made directly to the Community Fridge located at the Food Pantry of Christ Church La Plata.
By launching the Community Fridge program, SMADC is taking a step toward tackling food insecurity in Southern Maryland. Through this program, the community can work together to ensure everyone can access healthy, locally-sourced food.