By Liz Nolan, Contributing Writer
NORTHBOROUGH – When kindergarteners and first graders at The Fitzgerald Community School in Northborough learned about the existence of food insecurity, they were quick to come up with a solution.
The “Friend Fridge” is a result of their hard work and responsiveness to help others. It officially opened on May 8 and is located at the Northborough Food Pantry at 37 Pierce St.
Teacher Maria Ravelli has eight students in the K-1 classroom and is involved with a similar initiative in Worcester. When she explained it to the class, they were on board to make it happen in Northborough.
The concept is “take what you need, give what you can.” The fridge aims to build community and fill the gaps between food security and equity.
“There are a lot of people who don’t have food in the world and don’t have money to buy like we do,” said first-grade student Lillia El-Gamal. “All people deserve food even if they don’t have money.”
Community fridge works as collaborative effort
The fridge is available 24/7, and community members are encouraged to bring donations. Donations needed include whole foods, produce, breads, dairy and frozen items.
Raw meat cannot be accepted, and donors are asked to please check expiration dates. Shelf-stable goods and canned goods are needed for the pantry area.
“Donate food that you would feed your family,” said Ravelli.
The class also wanted to make sure that masks and hand sanitizer were available for people using the community fridge to keep everyone safe during COVID-19.
Work takes place behind the scenes
The Fitzgerald School has a total of 50 students, which enables small class sizes. Themed project-based learning is used so students can apply skills and learn skills with hands-on projects.
“How can we impact change in the community,” Ravelli said of the focus. “The students were inspired to think of vulnerable people in the community.”
Students worked on everything from fundraising, to logo design, to painting to building an enclosure for the fridge.
Fundraisers included a large yard sale and the sale of bookmarks.
Ravelli said students used math skills for counting donations and taking measurements. They learned how to use power tools and wrote letters to form partnerships with area restaurants, farms and bakeries for donations.
It is a self-sustaining community effort, she said.
Students, families and volunteers outside of school will help maintain the community fridge, dropping off donations and sanitizing it.
Organizers spread the word
Ravelli said this resource relies on the community’s help in getting the word out to people in need.
“We encourage community neighbors to pass by the fridge and pack a bag for their elderly neighbors,” she said. “We are currently working on creative ways of getting the word out, so neighbors in need know about the fridge.”
Grocery store gift cards only can be mailed to The Fitzgerald Community School K-1, 261 Main St., Northborough MA 01532. Additional information can be found on Facebook.