‘The location could not be more perfect’: Harvard Square lands its first community fridge

"Know that there are families in Cambridge, believe it or not, that are suffering from food insecurity," said one of the fridge's organizers.

Community fridge in Harvard Square
Harvard Square's new community fridge. Harvard Square Business Association

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As food insecurity continues to affect individuals and families throughout Greater Boston, Harvard Square has installed its first community fridge, making it easier for locals to access necessary essentials.

Organized by the Harvard Square Business Association (HSBA) and a few of its members — Y2Y, Trinity Property Management, and The Sinclair — in partnership with Cambridge Community Fridge, “Fridge in the Square” was erected at 52 Church St. last week.

Denise Jillson, executive director of the HSBA, told Boston.com that she was initially contacted by The Sinclair’s Josh Bhatti and Y2Y’s Cameron Van Fossen with the idea to install a community fridge.

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“They kept running into some stumbling blocks,” Jillson said. “What they needed was a refrigerator hut with a pantry and a location.”

The rest came together quickly. Jillson recruited her husband to build a refrigerator hut, a necessity to shelter food from fierce winter winds. With the help of John DiGiovanni, president of Trinity Property Management, they found a location for the fridge by the foot of the stairs at The Sinclair, right next to Dado Tea.

Harvard Square community fridge

Harvard Square community fridge.

“There was an electrical outlet there — it was extraordinary, if you think about it,” Jillson said. “The other thing is that it’s slightly off the beaten path, because what you want to do is to make sure that anybody who is availing themselves feels some sense of privacy. Sometimes people feel less than dignified if they have to avail themselves with this kind of thing. The location could not be more perfect.”

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Run by volunteers, community fridges abide by the maxim, “take what you need, leave what you can,” asking people to contribute produce, canned goods, and other items to the fridge, and encouraging those who require food assistance to take what they need. Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, they have bloomed across Boston: Community fridges can now be found in Allston, Dorchester, the Fenway, Jamaica Plain, Roslindale, Somerville, and other neighborhoods. This is not Cambridge’s first community fridge — there is one at 5 Callender St. and one at 157 Windsor St., but the “Fridge in the Square” is arguably in Cambridge’s most heavily trafficked area.

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“Know that there are families in Cambridge, believe it or not, that are suffering from food insecurity,” Jillson said.

Jillson was able to fill the fridge with produce for its debut after receiving a sizable donation, and Cambridge Community Fridge received a grant from the Cambridge Community Foundation to help keep it stocked. But anyone can contribute to both the fridge and the adjacent pantry, as long as they abide by the donation guidelines: Fresh produce, dairy products, pantry goods, and prepared meals are encouraged, while raw meat, alcoholic beverages, and home baked goods are not. Volunteers are also encouraged to sign up to help monitor the fridge, checking to see whether produce has expired and cleaning up any spills. Jillson said local businesses have already contributed, like Milk Bar, which brought over boxed-up cakes.

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“We’re just really pleased to be able to do this,” she said.

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