The Homer Community Food Pantry has provided a new service which will provide free food to local residents this winter: the Community Fridge.
This silver fridge is located at Homer United Methodist Church on East End Road near Homer High School, and is open 24/7. Anyone can visit to take or donate food throughout the week, with the exception of some hours on Mondays, when the pantry volunteers clean and stock the fridge.
Food Pantry Coordinator Laura McBride was instrumental in establishing this service and currently oversees its operation. McBride has been volunteering with the Homer Community Food Pantry for more than 12 years and joined the board during the COVID-19 pandemic.
McBride said she was motivated to push for this project’s development by the idea of recycling and redistributing goods which can be nourishing, but may not serve the needs of some restaurants or families anymore.
“The idea is to take the things that are cast off, to find the best of them and to make the best use of them,” McBride said. “And it’s — it’s amazing.”
McBride said she began talking about food preservation during Homer Drawdown meetings, where she persevered for many months.
“My personal interest through the food pantry was all of the food leftovers, like all that was having to be thrown because we had no kitchen, we couldn’t deal with it,” McBride said. “That was a huge hole in the pantry, and a fridge — it seemed like it would solve it.”
Eventually, Sherry Stead, co-owner of Grace Ridge Brewing and a former board member of the Homer Community Food Pantry, said she had found a free fridge in Anchorage which would work for Homer.
“Everything was on donation, like the fridge was donated; everything, all the food is donated,” McBride said.
Pastor Lisa Talbott of the Homer United Methodist Church was also influential in setting up the fridge, according to McBride.
While nobody is surveilling the fridge, and it operates on “honor code,” McBride said there is still a need for more volunteers to come check on the fridge’s contents, which must occur daily.
All of the contents of the fridge are provided by donation. Whether it be families who have leftovers they won’t eat, restaurants with food they want to share, or simply Homer folks who want to donate, the Community Fridge depends on these contributions.
The idea is that the donations are ready to eat, individualized goods. However, if you donate individual ingredients then the Food Pantry volunteers and staff can use them to assemble meals in the kitchen. McBride says she loves providing sandwiches for the people within the community, like high schoolers, who may have otherwise been hungry that day.
Usually, the fridge is stocked on Mondays when the many volunteers are working, and the food is available on a first-come, first-served basis throughout the week. Donations are accepted at any time, though, and new food may become available daily. McBride encourages restaurants who have excess food to consider donating, as that would add a lot to the fridge’s service.
McBride hopes anyone who may want to help the Community Fridge simply come to check the fridge, dropping off food or taking food as they can or need. She says that when considering what food items are worth donating, the rule of thumb that “if you wouldn’t use it, don’t ask someone else to,” should be considered. The pantry volunteers do monitor the contents and evaluate the food collection when necessary, however.
Additionally, anyone should feel comfortable taking food from the fridge whenever they need, according to McBride.
“Nobody should ever worry about what they take, you know, ever,” said McBride.
McBride also said she has noticed a greater community need for the Homer Community Food Pantry’s services since she became a board member in 2020. She says when she started on the board, the pantry would draw about 75 families during its regular Monday distribution session. Now, the number of families has risen to 130 or even 175.
“A lot more folks are needing help,” said McBride.
With this increase in demand, McBride recommends people take only the food they may need for the day, checking it again the next day if they need more food. The fridge is always open and available, but the goal is to serve as many members of our community as possible.
Ultimately, McBride says this fridge is for the city of Homer.
“It belongs to Homer … we just wan’t to keep it simple,” said McBride. “It’s for people, by people.”
McBride mentioned the positive feedback which she has already received since the start of the fridge. There have been many families who have expressed extreme gratitude, and kids going to school who wouldn’t have eaten that day had the services of the Community Fridge not been available.
For more information, contact McBride with the Homer Food Pantry at 907-299-9569. The Community Fridge is open for service or donation 24/7 at Homer United Methodist Church.