According to Feeding America’s annual Map the Meal Gap, in Sedgwick County 13% of the population experiences food insecurity, a rate that is slightly higher than the national rate of 10.5% in 2019. However, with the loss of 4,000 jobs in the Wichita area in the midst of COVID-19, it’s reasonable to assume that level of food insecurity has probably increased.
Hoping to help minimize this gap, Tajahnae Stocker took it upon herself to provide relief for low-income neighborhoods across Wichita by establishing the ICT Community Fridge Project. The project places working refrigerators at sites across the city that are stocked with groceries by members of the community. Anyone from the com-munity can participate in the project by placing food in or taking food from the refrigerators.
For individuals in need of food, the Fridge Project doesn’t require verification of income or any paperwork. Community fridges are meant to help people fill the gaps for their food in-secure households and neighbors that are not being addressed by the state.
“The ICT Community Fridge Project is rooted in food liberation and providing healthy, fresh foods in the community with an emphasis on food desert areas,” Stocker said.
Food deserts are urban communities where there aren’t enough affordable quality grocery stores in the area.
According to a report from the United States Department of Agriculture, areas with higher levels of poverty are more likely to be food deserts. Focus-ing on impoverished communities specifically, Stocker hopes that these fridges will only be temporary until these areas can get a grocery store they need.
Growing up, Stocker experienced what it was like to live in a food desert and has personally dealt with not having access to resources. “I wanted to provide a solution to these areas especially around Wichita State University,” Stocker said. “I wanted to remind Wichita that our community extends beyond our wealthy neighborhoods and students.” As the first fridge site, Stocker selected a location with a great deal of need, Wichita’s down-town homeless community. She reached an agreement and placed the fridge down-town at Dead Center Vintage,626 E Douglas Ave. This location is at the center of Wichita and gives those
With the help of her com-munity,Stocker was able to establish four additional fridge locations: CHD Boxing Club, 2505 E. Ninth St.; The Restoration Knox Center, 2924 E. Douglas Ave.; Wichita High School South, 701 W. 33rd St S.; and Leslie Coffee Co., 930 W. Douglas, Suite A.
Located in a hand-built shelter outside of the building, the fridge located at Knox Center is one of the first fridges available 24/7. The host site offers various services the community can take advantage of as well, including mental health services, addiction/ recovery and anger management. The fridge located at South High is also 24/7 to help students in the surrounding area have access to food whenever they need.
Each location accepts different items based on community need. For example, at the downtown location the homeless community benefits from Gatorade, water, snacks such as nuts, snackable, applesauce and other easy-to-eat meals. Another location in a neighborhood needs groceries to feed families, such as milk, eggs, produce and canned goods. Some unacceptable items are home-made foods, moldy or expired foods, and raw meat/seafoods.
In order to get the fridge filled, Stocker relies solely on the community through contributions and has a GoFundMe ($ictfreefood) to help raise money for the project which will go towards food, fridges, and paying local artists to paint the fridge.