As the creator of the Giving Fridge, Bethanie Farrell strives to alleviate food security in Vermont by increasing accessibility to nutritious,locally grown and prepared meals. The program provides the greater Addison County community with an average of 450 meals each week free of charge, thanks to funding mechanisms that include plants, grants and donations.
Located on Main Street in downtown Middlebury, the Giving Fridge is stocked with both food options from local restaurants to fresh produce. Meals can be catered towards individuals' needs in order to accommodate dietary needs and health conditions.
The community fridge emphasizes a rhetoric of connecting people through food. Farrell said the fridge has marked their success by seeing how “increased access to healthy meals improves the health, vitality, and productivity of our communities.”
According to the Giving Fridge’s website, it has been up and running for nearly three years and made substantial strides in improving the community’s social and physical wellbeing. Its goal is to combat the stigma around food insecurity and the barriers this creates for individuals to gain access to healthy food.
Each week, the fridge is stocked with a different array of meals, rotating weekly restaurants, caterers, and food producers. This week’s collaborators are American Flatbread, Crooked Ladle Catering, Magdalena’s, Otter Creek Bakery, Otter East Bakery & Deli, as well as the Stevens Farmstead in Sudbury, Vt.
This week, Giving Fridge is moving locations to the Battell Block Storefront at 51 Main alongside Crooked Ladle Catering. In this new multi-use location, the Giving Fridge and Crooked Ladle hope to encourage overall community wellness through creativity and food. The new location will also hopefully aid accessibility as it is in the center of town and allow for local participation by pulling different interests together to unite under one roof.
In order to expand its reach, the Giving Fridge consistently works to incorporate new ideas and attractions into the organization’s foundation. For example, they added Everything Nice, a boutique for plant and home decor located in the Giving Fridge location, whose proceeds go toward the meal program.
“Fostering resilient, sustainable, support systems within our communities is vital,” Farrell told The Campus. Connected to the fridge’s goals of community building, it has established a network of relationships with local restaurants and farms that in turn provides those businesses with an additional source of revenue.
The Giving Fridge’s goals of ending food insecurity extend beyond Addison County to the greater state of Vermont. Through this expansion, the organization is a part of the Vermont Everyone Eats program, task force and hub of leaders that fights food insecurity in Vermont through advocacy connections, local initiatives, and statewide collaboration.
The fridge’s initial goal was just to provide meals for a two-week period to relieve stress and food insecurity during the pandemic. However, thanks to a growing support system of local food providers, the Giving Fridge has been running for nearly three years, providing over 25,000 meals total in that time.
While the networks the fridge has fostered have benefitted it directly, the interconnectedness has also brought strength to the Vermont area, Farrell said. “Giving Fridge has set out to strengthen our local food system and nurture our community ecosystem,” Farrell said. She added that the fridge has been founded on members of the Middlebury community’s willingness to lend a hand and the subcommunities formed during the process.
One way Middlebury students can support the community fridge’s mission is by buying a plant from Everything Nice — every $10 spent at Everything Nice pays for a meal at the Giving Fridge. For those looking for more hands-on involvement, individuals can join volunteer groups to aid meal delivery and distribution as well as create fundraising opportunities to directly finance meal building.
Maggie Reynolds '24 (she/her) is the Editor in Chief.
Maggie previously served as the Senior Local Editor, a Local Section Editor, and a Staff Writer. She spent this past J-term interning for VTDigger, covering topics from affordable housing in Addison County to town government scandals. She also interned for Seven Days VT as an arts & culture reporter summer 2022 and as a news reporter for the Daily Gazette in Schenectady, NY summer 2021.
Maggie is majoring in History and minoring in Political Science and Spanish. She was a three-year member of the Women's Swimming and Diving team. Maggie enjoys running, hiking, and iced maple lattes.