The idea, Halstrom said, is to offer free, fresh food at all hours of the day to whoever needs it. The free fridges offer extra support to people who might be shy to visit a local food bank, which has limited hours. The food banks also make people sign declarations of need, which might prevent some people from using the services. Portland, among many other cities in the U.S., has a similar program.
Halstrom said that one of the fridges is outside the city limits in the county, but the issues with codes because of the structure are similar.
Gretta Anderson, owner of one of the properties where a Vancouver Free Fridge sits, said since the city made her move the fridge to the side of the house, it’s not as obvious to those in need.
“It’s still OK, but not as front and center,” she said. “People have to now intentionally turn into my driveway, and sometimes people are on my porch. I have to get some more signs.”
Anderson said there have not been any issues with houseless people or people in need using the fridge.
“There hasn’t been any real problems,” she said.
Most of the people that Halstrom sees using the fridge are people who aren’t houseless.
“A lot of people I’ve seen walking up (to the fridges) are middle-aged women who are not houseless,” she said. “We could be preventing a lot of people from becoming houseless when they’re living paycheck to paycheck.”
Halstrom, who works as a server at a local McMenamins and also is attending school, said she got the idea for the Vancouver Free Fridge from a similar program in Portland.
“I’d been looking to find something local and good to do in community,” she said.
She plans on opening more free fridges in the future and she’s also looking for restaurants willing to donate unused ingredients on a schedule and for volunteers to transport food. Recently, a few big donors have given the program money, which opened the door for future fridges, she said.
“The goal is just to be everywhere we can,” she said. “Even if there wasn’t a pandemic and unemployment issues: we’re trying to share food and also tackle food waste.”
The Columbian could not reach anyone from the city code compliance department on Monday evening for comment.