Future 50 group raising funds for community refrigerators

Bridget Tharp
For the Dispatch
Future 50 logo

Filling the fridges of all our neighbors is the focus of a new community project led by members of Columbus CEO’s Future 50.

The food access project team has a goal to place and fill 10 community refrigerators with produce and pre-prepared foods in high-need neighborhoods. The fridges will be sheltered and secured in outdoor areas adjacent to nonprofit site partners, managed by food stocking partners, and will be accessible by neighbors in need 24/7.

Modeled after an international grassroots effort, community refrigerators may reduce the barriers that get in the way of accessing healthy food options, including transportation, price, timing and stigma.

Food deserts are found all around Columbus where supermarkets or grocery stores are scarce, which directly contributes to food insecurity. These areas may instead have more convenience stores which are more likely to sell processed, shelf-stable goods rather than fresh produce. As a result, residents may have to travel to find healthy food, which can be more challenging for those without reliable access to transportation.

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Three nonprofit organizations have already committed to be site partners for the refrigerators, including Franklinton Board of Trade/Franklinton Development Association, Reeb Avenue Center and Star House. Site partners will offer easily accessible space to make this program a reality. Additional community fridges will be located in the some of the areas identified as having the highest rate of healthy food scarcity by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. 

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"When we were approached about this initiative through the Columbus CEO Future 50 Program, it immediately made sense from the perspective of both Franklinton Board of Trade (FBOT) and Franklinton Special Improvement District (FSID) to be a partner,” said Trent Smith, executive director of the Franklinton Board of Trade. “Both organizations are working to advocate for and assist the community in multiple ways, and this request clicked with us. We look forward to seeing it all come together to assist the families and individuals in Franklinton who have nutritional needs that are not being met otherwise."

The food access project team has created a GoFundMe page with a target to raise $2,500 per refrigerator. The funds raised will be managed by Franklinton Board of Trade and spent by the project group to shelter and secure the appliances, to mobilize neighborhoods to use and support the effort, and cleaning supplies and other partner support so that neighbors can properly dispose of unsafe food.

“Star House is excited to be involved with the community food access project because it is an innovative approach for providing immediate access to nutrition for vulnerable people,” said Ann Bischoff, CEO of Star House. “The immediacy and convenience of access is what sets this concept apart.”

Still needed are food stocking partners to ensure the refrigerators never go empty, and the project group is pursuing pantry partners of the Mid-Ohio Food Collective. This is a grassroots effort to create a sustainable program that connects local pantries and neighborhoods, so those who need to access healthy foods are the real owner-users.

Future 50 member Anna Sanyal photographed at COSI on October 28, 2020.  (Photo by Rob Hardin)

To learn more about the project, visit  https://gofund.me/42e721f1  or contact one of the Future 50 food access team including:

  • Co-leader Anna Sanyal, associate, Vorys Sater Seymour & Pease
  • Co-leader Bridget Tharp, major gifts officer, Mid-Ohio Foodbank
  • Co-leader Stephen Swift, administrator, Department of Perioperative Services, Nationwide Children’s Hospital
  • Robbie Banks, program director, diversity equity and inclusion, Columbus Partnership
  • Erica Bell, administrative director - Neuroscience Research Institute at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center
  • Michael Bongiorno, managing principal, AECOM
  • Madison Mikhail Bush, founder & CEO, Point
  • Priyam Chokshi, director of community and legislative strategies, CelebrateOne
  • Unhee Kim, president, Mount Carmel East Hospital
  • Preety Sidhu, senior vice president of strategy and business development, Cardinal Health medical segment
  • Patrick Smith, vice president, IGS Solar
  • Remo Moomiaie-Qajar, president and CEO, Cytonus Therapeutics
Future 50 member Bridget Tharp photographed at COSI on October 28, 2020.  (Photo by Rob Hardin)

Bridget Tharp is a member of the Future 50 class of 2021 and major gifts officer for the Mid-Ohio Food Collective.