Shortly after Lisa Thompson became the Assistant Branch Manager at the Jessie Peterman Memorial Library, she and I started talking about the idea of a Free Fridge at our library. We had each heard about the idea independently and thought it was possibly a good idea for Floyd. Our community has a well-established food bank called Plenty! which has been providing food to our community since 2013 through their food bank and portable produce program. They do an amazing job serving our community, and we did not view our fridge project as another food bank. We wanted our fridge to be a place where anyone in our community could come for fresh food, regardless of their income or perceived need. From the first we saw it as an asset for everyone, a way to provide fresh produce to our community, and a means to educate and enrich our community’s knowledge about healthy eating and the resources in that same community.
Our first move was to reach out to Plenty!. If they felt our project would conflict with or just replicate what they were already doing, it would be counterproductive to what we wanted to do. Plenty! fully supported our idea. They felt it was an excellent opportunity for further supplying our community with good food as well as a great opportunity for us to inform people about the services they provided. Further, they were more than willing to stock the fridge.
Now that we had a community partner in place, we conducted more research on the “free fridge” concept as a whole. On a visit to Charleston, South Carolina in April 2021, Lisa visited the St. Paul’s Hollywood Library which is part of the Charleston Public Library System. Their “Free and Fresh Fridge” was still in the early days of being open, but they shared their process, successes, and plans with Lisa. We then met with a group in our area who already had a fridge in place: the Future Economic Collective, located in Blacksburg, Virginia. They shared their knowledge, resources, and their process, as well as offering their support for when we had the fridge in place, as a possible resource for keeping it filled.
``Sugar Smarts``, another program addressing nutrition at the Jessie Peterman Memorial Library
Courtesy of the Jessie Peterman Memorial Library Facebook Page
Within our own library system, Shaylee Hodges, Children’s Program Specialist, voiced her desire to be involved in the project. She developed children’s programming, in cooperation with the Floyd County Extension office, about healthy eating that would tie in with our fridge project.
With support in our community, inspiration from a program already in place, staff and programs all set to go, all we needed now was a fridge.
There were some opportunities for financial support for this project in our community but funding for the actual fridge came from an unlooked-for source, as it sometimes does.
One day, I had a call from one of our patrons who had contributed significant financial support to our library in the past. In the course of the conversation, the patron voiced an interest in helping the library with any projects we had in mind. I told him about the fridge project. This patron generously, oh so generously, offered to pay for the fridge. We were over the moon!
We ordered the fridge and awaited its delivery in late April. During that time, we met with Plenty!, painted the area where the fridge would live a cheerful shade of green, and planned to begin offering produce to our community in early May. And then, like the schemes of mice and men, our plans went rather “a-gley.” The fridge arrived and was dented. Significantly. And not in an easily “hideable” spot, but rather just below the doors on the front. *Sigh.* The process of returning it and ordering a new one was arduous and is, at the moment, still ongoing. But this will pass, and soon, the Floyd Free Fridge will be filled with produce available to everyone in our community.
–Joann Verostko, Branch Manager, Jessie Peterman Memorial Library, Montgomery-Floyd Regional Library