By ERIN ROLL
roll@montclairlocal.news

Community fridges, which have been gaining in popularity in New York and other cities, could be coming to Montclair soon. 

Community fridges are set up in public areas and give people access to perishable food in neighborhoods lacking a supermarket. Locals can pick up the perishable food that they need free of charge. People are also welcome to leave food. 

Montclair Mutual Aid wants to set up a community fridge in Montclair's South End. 

Financial backing from a donor, who wants to remain anonymous, has been secured. 

The group is searching for a homeowner or business owner who would be willing to host the fridge on their property.

Montclair Mutual Aid is still working on the logistics of how to hook up electricity, and how to supply the fridge with food. 

“We have seen great results from other towns who operate community fridges, and we know we can make one work here,” said a statement provided by Aminah Toler of Montclair Mutual Aid. The project, however, is still in the planning stages.  

“We are also working out the fine details, and logistics of how we would operate it,” Toler said. The community fridge idea for Montclair arose from the Fourth Ward’s ongoing lack of a full-service grocery store, the group said. The Fourth Ward has not had a grocery store since the closure of the Pathmark in Lackawanna Plaza in 2014. Plans were in place for Lidl to open a store in the plaza, but a lawsuit calling for the preservation of the glass-enclosed train sheds is holding up construction. 

In New York, community fridges have taken on renewed prominence during the pandemic. In New Jersey, large cities such as Bayonne and Jersey City have also started community fridge projects.

With a typical fridge, the organizers ask a business for permission to plug the fridge into an electrical supply. Stores and restaurants are invited to donate unused or unsold food, rather than throw it away. 

A fridge may be operated by an individual household, business, community group or nonprofit. 

Last year, Montclair’s Pine Street area lost a food outlet when 73 See Gallery closed. The owner, Mary Z. Scotti, had set up a food pantry of sorts when she moved to the block, which contains many Section 8 rental properties, 10 years ago. Food, clothing, books and more were kept stocked for her neighbors.

Some of the community fridge projects in existence include Foodsharing, Freedge and The Friendly Fridge, all which aim to reduce food waste and build a stronger community. The organization Freedge has 244 community fridges set up around the world. 

For information on how to get involved, email aidmontclairmutual@gmail.com

CORRECTION: This article has been corrected to indicate the South End, not just Orange Road, as the possible location for the fridge. The email address for Montclair Mutual Aid has also been corrected.