Students donate to Community Fridge to fight food insecurity

The Multicultural Leadership Club has arranged a Holiday Food Drive to lessen the stress of those struggling with food insecurity this holiday season.

Food insecurity is an ongoing issue prevalent in both urban and suburban areas regardless of race, class or gender. More than 7,000 people in Oak Park alone are affected by food insecurity, according to Beyond Hunger, a local organization dedicated to reducing hunger in our community.

Donations to the Holiday Food Drive will be given to The Oak Park Community Fridge, an initiative seeking to reduce food insecurity and waste.

The Community Fridge project was started by Suburban Unity Alliance (SUA), a nonprofit organization founded in 2016 committed to promoting welfare and fellowship to better Oak Park. The SUA sponsors five community fridges, four in Oak Park and one Maywood. The primary location is the Oak Park Public Library’s main branch at 834 Lake St.

“These fridges are open 24 hours, seven days a week, 365 days a year, providing food and housing items for individuals experiencing homelessness, food or housing insecurity,” said Anthony Clark, director of SUA and a history and special education teacher at Oak Park and River Forest High School.

The popularity of these fridges is due to their anonymity and accessibility, according to Clark. There are no questions asked, forms required, or contact information necessary.

“You can have a huge home with an empty refrigerator or drive a nice car and be hungry,” Clark said. “Food insecurity doesn’t discriminate, it can impact anyone.”

The community fridges offer pre-made and prepackaged foods as well as sanitary items, baby formula, diapers and hygiene products, through partnerships and donations.

One of those partnerships is with OPRF’s Multicultural Leadership Council, co-sponsored by teachers Lee Williams and Kiko Achurra.

The Multicultural Leadership Council has recently begun organizing various food drives throughout the school year, collecting pantry items that directly benefit the Oak Park Community Fridges. “Last year was very successful,” Williams said. “I was delivering goods to the local community fridge at least twice a week.”

OPRF’s support of the community fridges has allowed both students and staff to see how unused and unwanted food items can make a difference to someone else. “It just takes a few minutes of your time to see what times you have at home,” Achurra said. “It can really have a great impact on someone’s life.”

“With the amount of resources we have in this community and beyond, no one should be going hungry,” Clark said.