Merced County Times Newspaper
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Merced County Local News

Fresh Food Connect joins produce donors with consumers at People’s Fridge


UC Merced announced on July 1 that it is partnering with Fresh Food Connect to help feed the community.

Erin Meyer, M.S, Sustainable Food Programs Coordinator, Office of Leadership, Service and Career at UC Merced, told the Times, “Fresh Food Connect is a nationwide organization based in Denver, and I volunteer for them and have been a volunteer for about six months.  I had this idea to partner with them to increase food security.

“It’s a partnership between Fresh Food Connect and UC Merced, and we launched July 1, so that gardeners and growers can download a free app and put in their zip code and use it to then donate their surplus food to those in need at The People’s Fridge.  Right now, it’s just for Merced County.

“I expect that people who have a back yard garden with too much chard or zucchini may find it a good way to give back to the community.”

The People’s Fridge is a free community fridge available to the public 24/7 at 936 W. 18th Street in Merced at the People’s Garden.  People’s Fridge opened in 2020 as a place where people can take home fresh produce, and it is aimed at solving the county’s issues of food insecurity and food waste.

Meyer said, “With Fresh Food Connect, people download the app at the app store and then it connects them with The People’s Fridge.  On the app, they can put in how much food they want to donate and what kind of food it is.  Then they drop off the food.  It’s a good way to reduce garden waste because a lot of people have surplus garden food.

“There’s a chat function on the app, so they can chat with us so we can see how it’s going.”

When asked how The People’s Fridge is doing since its launch in September 2020, Meyer told the Times, “We’ve seen a huge uptick in people using the Fridge.  It means that people really need food, and we’re running out of sources of food.  A lot of the pantries are needing donations; that means they are in short supply and it’s summer and kids tend to be at home in the summer and wanting more food.

“So, in summary, we’re seeing an increased usage of the Fridge, and it’s emptying out faster and we encourage that.  We want to see more people giving and taking.

We’re looking at opening up more Fridge’s in Merced, and we also have the Delhi People’s Fridge which opened in March 2021 and seems to be doing well.”

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