Need food? Take it. Have some to give? You can leave it at this Macon Community Fridge

A group fighting food insecurity in Macon founded during the COVID-19 pandemic hopes its efforts will keep proving fruitful, even now that COVID is no longer a focal point for local communities.

The Macon Community Fridge, co-founded by Hannah Matthews and Leonard Oxley in 2020, is a community led project that relies on the sustained commitment of its neighbors to keep it going - something it’s been able to do well past the pandemic.

Matthews said at the time, community fridges started popping up around the country to fill in resource gaps exacerbated by the pandemic.

“We learned more from Free99Fridge in Atlanta and decided to get one started in Macon to address food insecurity in our community,” she said.

Free99Fridge is a similar initiative in Atlanta.

Leonard Oxley, left, and Hannah Matthews, co-founders of Macon Community Fridge, make a grocery run to stock the fridge during COVID-19.
Leonard Oxley, left, and Hannah Matthews, co-founders of Macon Community Fridge, make a grocery run to stock the fridge during COVID-19.

Food can be taken and shared any time, seven days a week at the Macon Community Fridge. Neighbors keep it clean and throw out any expired or unlabeled food.

Food shared must be have labels showing the ingredients and date made. The community fridge does not accept alcohol or raw meat, according to Matthews.

A volunteer recently stocked the Macon Community Fridge with meals for the Easter holiday.
A volunteer recently stocked the Macon Community Fridge with meals for the Easter holiday.

Matthews said while Macon does have many helpful resources, there are barriers stemming from when they can be accessed, showing identification and more.

“We hope that Macon Community Fridge can bring some dignity back to food access, as we trust our neighbors to take what they need at any time,” she said. “The feedback we have gotten from our neighbors is overwhelmingly positive.”

Matthews said some unhoused neighbors call it the “magic fridge.” The one critique is that it’s frequently empty, but Matthews wants to get more neighbors involved to fix that.

Matthews said volunteers often hold food-making parties to stock the fridge and also receive donations through apps.

Volunteers have a sandwich-making party to stock the Macon Community Fridge.
Volunteers have a sandwich-making party to stock the Macon Community Fridge.

“We love a sandwich making party. These events are one of our favorite ways to stock the fridge, and we see a lot of different groups hosting them, including Wesleyan, Mercer, and local churches,” she said. “I celebrated my birthday with a sandwich making party this year.”

Matthews said to regularly stock the fridge, it would cost around $100 a week - and while that usually doesn’t happen, she said the group is lucky to have a great social media following that helps fill in the gaps for things like upcoming events or grocery stock up. Some local businesses and organizations help provide for the fridge too.

Matthews said Centenary Community Ministries followed in Macon Community Fridge’s footsteps and started its own after seeing the success and positive community feedback.

The Macon Community Fridge is stocked with meals and waters. The initiative began in 2020 due to COVID-19 and continues today.
The Macon Community Fridge is stocked with meals and waters. The initiative began in 2020 due to COVID-19 and continues today.

Matthews went on to say it’s important to understand the psychology of food insecurity and how important it is to take care of neighbors and community.

“I think for many of us it is easy to turn our heads away from our unhoused neighbors. But realistically, most of us are one or two paychecks away from being in that same position,” she said. “We have much more in common with our unhoused neighbors than with millionaires. We have to take care of one another.”

For those who like the idea of the community fridge but don’t know how to help, Matthews said there are several options, including making meals, dropping off groceries, volunteering to do fridge wellness checks, supporting grocery trips financially, and more.

Matthews said the future of the Macon Community Fridge is uncertain, but she continues to dream big.

“On rough days when the fridge is dirty, empty, broken, flipped by a storm, or stolen my hope is that it keeps surviving,” she said.

“But when I am at the fridge talking to our neighbors who rely on it to survive, I dream a little bigger and hope that Macon Community Fridge can be a spark for larger changes that fill bellies in Macon,” Matthews added.

The Macon Community Fridge is located at 887 Forsyth Street.