Oakland Nonprofit Fills Community Fridges to Combat Hunger

Suzanne Potter | California News Service
HOPE Collaborative in Oakland partners with Cocina del Corazon to produce healthy meals that are distributed free at community fridges and corner stores to feed the needy. Photo Credit: HOPE Collaborative

Local nonprofits in the Bay Area are tackling hunger in low-income neighborhoods by stocking corner stores and “community fridges” around town with free healthy meals.

The HOPE Collaborative in Oakland has received a $5,500 grant to help with this effort, from the Health, Environment, Agriculture and Labor Food Alliance – known as HEAL.

Elizabeth Esparza – interim project director at HOPE Collaborative – said people think that hunger needs went down as the pandemic has eased, but that isn’t the case.

“There were a lot of increased supports in 2020,” said Esparza. “And a lot of those started to drop off before the end of 2020 when the pandemic was at its worst. And so, that need is still there.”

HOPE Collaborative has teamed up with nonprofits Cocina del Corazon and Third Eye Soul Kitchen to stock community fridges placed around town and launched the Community Food Distribution Project with their Healthy Corner Store partners in March.

Navina Khanna, executive director of the HEAL Food Alliance, said the group is awarding $52,000 in rapid-response grants to food justice organizations that work with communities of color.

“We were seeing that to go through a whole funding process is often very, very cumbersome,” said Khanna, “in terms of an application and reporting requirements, and things like that. And that, by creating a pool of funds and getting that out to our communities, our communities could do what they need to do.”

The grants are designed to be flexible and can be used for many things – including repairs to a broken fridge, transportation, food and more. They have benefited eight grassroots, BIPOC-led organizations across the country.