Nanny State

Fort Worth Regulators Target Community Fridges Providing Free Food for People in Need

Using obscure laws to prevent people from helping each other is obscene.

|

In September, a group of residents in Fort Worth, Texas, decided to do something to combat growing hunger in their city. They placed a refrigerator on a city street and stocked it with food that anyone in need could take and eat. For free. Months later, though, their efforts are in jeopardy due to an unwelcome combination of outdated laws and overzealous regulators.

At a time when millions of Americans can't afford enough food to eat—a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent economic crisis—refrigerators stocked with free food are popping up on city streets around the country. These community fridges, as they're known, are similar in spirit and effect to the mutual-aid model that was once popular in this country. The spread of community fridges may be welcome evidence that that approach is making a comeback.

In October, for example, Today reported on the spread of community fridges, citing examples in Louisiana, Colorado, and New Jersey.

A community fridge in Tulsa, Oklahoma, is another example. "Anyone can come and pick up food and take it with them," says Ana Barros, who works with the group that sponsors Tulsa's community fridge. "It's open 24/7 basically take what you need, leave what you can."

In Phoenix, a new community fridge is located outside a popular coffee shop. In Denver, a group of ten volunteers maintains four community fridges in the city. In Wilmington, the nonprofit Planting to Feed launched Delaware's first community fridge last month, with hopes it will be the first of many statewide. And this week, the Boston Globe reported on a community fridge in Harvard Square. It's one of at least ten community fridges in the Boston area.

The growing interest in community fridges is obvious. Last week, for example, Mashable detailed ways to start a community fridge project or to support existing efforts.

Despite the fact that community fridges fill a vital need today and are exactly the sort of community-building and local self-reliance that America needs right now, these fridges are increasingly facing the ire of regulators.

As the aforementioned Today piece details, some community fridges are facing pushback from local regulators over perceived health and zoning violations. That brings us to Fort Worth.

That city's community fridge project was started by Kendra Richardson, a local high school teacher and activist, Eater's Brittanie Shey reported in September. Richardson's successful Funky Town Fridge project soon added two more community fridges. But, as Shey reported last week, the Funky Town Fridge project is in jeopardy now thanks to a perfect storm of inane (and inanely applied) state and local laws.

After allowing her to operate for months, Fort Worth officials informed Richardson that the community fridges violate what Shey rightly terms "an obscure, archaic law, passed in 1964, that is meant to prevent children from becoming stuck in airtight appliances."

To be fair, the law made sense at one point. Most early refrigerators could be opened only by an exterior latch. The fact these latches could not be opened from inside a refrigerator helped cause the deaths of many children, who suffocated while playing hide and seek or other innocent games.

As Eater's Shey notes, refrigerator safety features have improved dramatically since the 1950s, when Congress passed the Refrigerator Safety Act. The law was intended to ensure that children and adventure-seeking teens don't become stuck in and suffocate in an old, latch-reliant fridge. Indeed, most (if not all) modern refrigerators can be opened easily from inside, thanks to magnetic closures. 

The Fort Worth law, hence, is largely irrelevant. It needlessly requires locks and human supervision. The community fridge model—24/7 access and no human supervision—runs counter to that law. (In a subsequent report last week, Shey noted that Fort Worth community fridges likely also violate Texas state law, which prohibits leaving a refrigerator "outside a structure.")

Fort Worth officials, who Shey reports say they're working to ensure Richardson's community fridges can continue to operate, now also claim the community fridges raise separate zoning and food-safety issues. That's perhaps why Shey also reports Richardson is skeptical of the city's purported goodwill, saying "she feels the city went looking for a law that would allow them to shut her down."

The Fort Worth community fridges wouldn't be the first to be shut down by overzealous regulators. In September, for example, San Diego volunteers were forced to remove a community fridge located outside a business that had welcomed and provided electricity for the fridge in part because the city determined "the fridge was not in compliance with charitable feeding operations guidelines."

That's shameful. As I detail in my book, Biting the Hands that Feed Us: How Fewer, Smarter Laws Would Make Our Food System More Sustainable, local ordinances that prohibit people from choosing to share food with the homeless and less fortunate are the basest form of lawmaking. Cities such as Fort Worth that invoke outdated (or just plainly inane) laws and regulations to crack down on community fridges during a time of great suffering should abandon these vile, counterproductive actions at once.

NEXT: Don't Pack the Courts

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Charity begins at home. In my neighborhood, there is a soup kitchen/food bank run by a local church. I donate items occasionally. There is an elderly man living alone across the street from myself. I bring him a plate of food 3-4 times a week. I’m not suggesting I’m morally superior to anyone, I’m just saying I do a small part. I assume there’s so guy on the next block doing similar stuff. I also clear the snow from two neighbors driveways, simply because I’m able and grateful for my resources. This is how charity works. Much more effective and humane than any government program could achieve.

    1. wellcome to the online job. I will earn more than 15,000 EUR for easy work online at home in my free time. I am a full-time student and just because I did this job for 3 hours, I got 18,269 EUR..xG8 from this job last month. Very good work and making money is great. Anyone can get this job and start making money just by following the instructions here… Detail Of Work

      1. [ PART TIME JOB FOR USA ] Making money online more than 15$ just by doing simple work from home. I have received $18376 last month. Its an easy and simple job to do and its earnings are much better than regular office XtX job and even a little child KERD can do this and earns money. Everybody must try this job by just use the info
        on this page…..READ MORE

        1. Making money online more than 15$ just by doing simple work from home. I have received $18376 last month. Its an easy and simple job to do and its earnings ABG are much better than regular office job and even a little child can do this and earns money. Everybody must try this job by just use the info
          on this page…..READ MORE

    2. Google paid for all online work from home from $ 16,000 to $ 32,000 a month. The younger brother was out of work for three months gjui and a month ago her check was $ 32475, working at home for 4 hours a day, and earning could be even bigger….So I started….. Visit Here

    3. Get $192 hourly from Google!…Yes this is Authentic since I just got my first payout of $24413 and this was just of a single week…CVBtre I have also bought my Range Rover Velar right after this payout…It is really cool job I have ever had and you won’t forgive yourself if you do not check it…….Home Profit System

    4. Real online home based work to make more than $14k. Last month i have made $15738 from this home job. Very simple and easy to do and earnings from this are just awesome for details. For more detail visit the given link………..INFORMATION USA HOME JOB.

    5. wellcome to the online job. I will earn more than 15,000 EUR for easy work online at home in my free time. I am a full-time student and just because I did this job for 3 hours, I got 18,269 EUR..xG8 from this job haz last month. Very good work and making money is great. Anyone can get this job and start making money just by following the instructions here…Visit Here

    6. While I cannot guarantee what you might get offered if you’re successful with them,KUHjnb my research suggests around $30 USD per hour for those based in Asia/India, and around $30-40 USD per hour for those based in Europe and UK / US / Australia / New Zealand. I work through this link, go? to tech tab for work detail…… Home Profit System

    7. Do you wanna earn money without investing money? That’s how I started this job and MTC Now I am making $200 to $300 per hour for doing online work from home.

      Apply Now here…….. Visit Here

    8. Start earning today from $600 to $754 easily by working online from home. Last month i have generate and received $19663 from this job by giving this only maximum 2 hours a day of my life.QCyrdb Easiest job in the world and ecarning from this job are just awesome. Everybody can now get this job and start earning cash online right now by just follow instructions click on this link and vist tabs( Home, Media, Tech ) for more details thanks…… Visit……….Home Profit System

    9. Yeah it`s Possible…Anybody can earn 250$+ daily… You can earn from 6000-12000 a month or even more if you work as a full time job…It’s easy, just follow instructions on this page, read it carefully from start to finish…BNHjki It’s a flexible job but a good
      eaning opportunity……… Visit……….Home Profit System

  2. I totally agree with this article, but I am confused – is a refrigerator necessary? There are plenty of foods that don’t require refrigeration.

    1. Neighborhood “leave one or take one” pantries or cupboards have popped up all over, for shelf-stable packaged food. In some cases were outgrowths of bookswapping. If one wants to share anything perishable, a fridge is needed.

      1. We have one in our neighborhood. They got around the ‘fridge’ thing when someone donated a bunch of giant Yeti coolers.

    2. Get $192 hourly from Google!…Yes this is Authentic since I just got my first payout of $24413 and this was just of a single week…QSXhyu I have also bought my Range Rover Velar right after this payout…It is really cool job I have ever had and you won’t forgive yourself if you do not check it…….Home Profit System

    3. wellcome to the online job. I will earn more than 15,000 EUR for easy work online at home in my free time. I am a full-time student and just because I did this job for 3 hours, I got 18,269 EUR..xG8 from this job hax last month. Very good work and making money is great. Anyone can get this job and start making money just by following the instructions here…Visit Here

  3. Why not just amend the Fort Worth law to only apply to latched fridges? The lawmakers can keep themselves busy and score a small PR win, and the outdoor fridges can stay. Everybody wins. Nobody loses.

    It’s baffling.

    1. If people help themselves then they won’t look to government, and that weakens government power. That’s why these things must be shut down. Government hates private charity.

      1. It’s almost like they were trying to establish a religion. Of the state.

  4. OT, but this needs to be smeared over the face of the next TDS-addled shit claiming ‘they were gonna kill people!!!’

    “Feds back away from claim of assassination plot at Capitol
    Prosecutors who initially said there was “strong evidence” the pro-Trump mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol last week aimed to “capture and assassinate elected officials” have backed away from that allegation”
    […]
    “PHOENIX — Federal prosecutors who initially said there was “strong evidence” the pro-Trump mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol last week aimed to “capture and assassinate elected officials” backed away from the allegation after the head of the investigation cautioned Friday that the probe is still in its early stages and there was no “direct evidence” of such intentions…”
    https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/wireStory/feds-capitol-mob-aimed-assassinate-elected-officials-75277876?cid=clicksource_4380645_6_heads_hero_live_hero_hed

    IOWs, they lied. And I’m sure they’re still lying; TDS is a serious condition.

    1. Don’t worry, this will be buried. We can’t let facts get in the way of our Reichstag fire narrative.

    2. “TDS is a serious condition.”

      Damn straight. It led to your internet buddies storming the Capital and giving leftists an excuse to do leftist shit.

  5. Honest online career from home Earns upto $550 to $750 doller by way of work is simple on web _- https://bit.ly/2LHmYOd

  6. Make 6,000 dollar to 8,000 dollar A Month Online With No Prior Experience Or Skills Required. Be Your Own Boss AndChoose Your Own Work Hours.Thanks A lot Here>>> Click here.

  7. STAY AT HOME & WORK AT HOME FOR USA ►Check it out, and start earning yourself . for more info visit any tab this site Thanks a lot Here… Check here.

  8. Charity is a threat to the Democratic National Socialist parties POWER….. It’s as obvious as day why they are going after charity.

  9. “In October, for example, Today reported on the spread of community fridges, citing examples in Louisiana, Colorado, and New Jersey.”

    I’m surprised the governor hasn’t tried to steal their bank accounts.

    Fuck Phil Murphy.

  10. Seems it would mollify everyone’s concern if they just located them in a lobby. Plenty of retail businesses, such as pizzerias, have self-service refrigerators like that. If that’s still too dangerous, just set a refrigerated vending machine to dispense without payment. You’d think it’d be obvious. Am I the only person who thinks? I mean, we have self-service refrigerated and non-refrigerated dispensers all over the place, and nobody seems to have a problem with them, except when it comes to cigarets.

  11. Mutual aid is great.
    The flip side of this refrigerator thing is that someone would get sued if a person (or pet, etc) did get trapped in one of those unsupervised refrigerators. There is overlegislating for the sake of control and then there is overlegislating for CYA.
    It still happens.
    https://www.insideedition.com/3-children-dead-after-getting-trapped-inside-freezer-while-playing-florida-yard-49989

  12. Since I started fre+lancing I’ve been bringing in (((($)))90 bucks/h… I sit at home and i am doing my work from my laptop.EDa Th℮ best thing is that i get more time to spent with my family and with my kids and in the same time i can earn enough to support them…

    You can do it too. Start here—— > > Online Jobs provid

  13. wellcome to the online job. I will earn more than 15,000 EUR for easy work online at home in my free time. I am a full-time student and just because I did this job for 3 hours, I got 18,269 EUR..xG8 from this job haz last month. Very good work and making money is great. Anyone can get this job and start making money just by following the instructions here…Visit Here

  14. “…the charitable impulse is still an unequivocal good vital to individual liberty…

    In a sense, the opposition to charity can be seen as a characteristic of the modern statist impulse. Both on the progressive left and the nationalist right, there is a growing antipathy to the idea of individualism. The ideal of individual liberty and responsibility that has been at the heart of liberal thinking since the Enlightenment is being jettisoned in favor of a collectivist notion of state primacy. Charity, then, might be seen as the canary in the coal mine.” ~ Michael Tanner

    These statists see charity as competition with which they can never fairly compete, indeed as a threat to their excuse for existing at all. State interventions suffer in comparison with charities in terms of efficacy, efficiency, morality, and cannot provide the individual satisfaction and growth to both givers and receivers that do charities.

  15. ” . . . a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent economic crisis . . . ”

    Just for the record; a result of the botched government intervention in everyone’s lives, using the Communist Chinese Virus as an excuse.

  16. Anyone giving odds that if the refrigerators were restricted to the “needy” based on sex (real or imagined), race, or perceived economic status, there would be no issues from the people’s republics?
    It is just being fair as an individual that causes the fascists heartburn.

  17. Such a great concept, well done guys

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.