Established in the midst of the pandemic, the Athens Community Fridge resides behind the Caledonia Lounge downtown. Molly McClintock and Mary Rose Callahan, University of Georgia graduates and bartenders, started the Athens Community Fridge to combat food insecurity in Athens.
McClintock’s inspiration began when a man approached her asking for directions to one of Athens’ food pantries. She created a map to allow easier access to these pantries.
“[Food insecurity] was never something I thought about until I got to college. When I came to Athens I noticed a large disparity between affluent university folks and permanent residents. That was the first time I really witnessed food insecurity,” McClintock said.
A New York Organization called A New World in Our Hearts further inspired McClintock. The group’s Instagram profile self-describes as an “anarchist network of autonomous collectives, projects and individuals building a culture of resistance.”
“I just posted about it on Instagram and people seemed really excited. Mary Rose reached out to me and was like ‘I’ll totally help you.’ The idea kind of just snowballed from there,” McClintock said.
On July 16, the first community fridge was placed at 256 W. Clayton Street. A month later the Athens Community Fridge announced through Instagram that they will be adding a second fridge behind Rashe’s Cuisine on 585 Vine St.
“I followed them on Instagram and they hit me up. They were like, ‘Hey would you be interested in partnering with us?’ They came a couple of days later and we looked around to figure out what it would take to make it happen. They wanted a spot on the Eastside and it really was just that simple,” said Rashe’s Cuisine owner Rashe Malcolm.
McClintock and Callahan are hoping to establish more accessible locations in the future.
“We’d definitely like to have more locations, especially around the North Ave area just so people don’t have to come all the way downtown,” Callahan said.
Although the Athens Community Fridge has obtained support from locals, businesses, and other community organizations such as the Athens Mutual Aid Network, their first fridge experienced some problems.
“The first fridge that we painted, you’ve probably seen on Instagram, kicked out on us. It stopped working. It was donated, so that was good, but it was older so I wasn’t super surprised,” McClintock said.
At first, the community fridge also struggled to offer fresh food because people would donate their leftovers or opened goods. This led to the establishment of the fridge’s donation guidelines, which indicate no pre-opened food will be accepted. The community fridge also accepts monetary donations to pay for its electricity and buy sanitary products.
To further ensure the community’s safety, there is a washing station that includes hand sanitizer and wipes next to the fridge. Currently, the Athens Community Fridge is accepting volunteers who are willing to check on the fridge throughout the day. The volunteers will disinfect the fridge and its surroundings while doing food checkups.
“It’s open 24/7 and anyone can use it. I think a lot of the time people think that the fridge is a charity and it’s not that. It’s mutual aid. Food for the people by the people,” McClintock said.