Community fridges emerged in Philadelphia in 2020. Residents created the fridges and other mutual aid initiatives to make nutritious food more accessible amid the coronavirus pandemic. Germantown is home to three community fridges. Ourchive215 operates one and Germantown Community Fridge runs two more.

But, not all fridges operate under the same donation guidelines or have the same holding capacity. Some can only take food, while others span beyond food needs. So, what can go into Germantown’s fridges? When donating to them, what are some of the most helpful and unhelpful practices? Jane Ellis of GCF and Victor Jackson of Ourchive215 outline them below.


Ourchive215 (5424 Lena Street)

Lena Street Fridge. Captured by Rasheed Ajamu.

What Items are Acceptable?

  • Refrigerated items (fruit, milk, eggs, veggies, etc.)
  • Raw meats (must go in the freezer and be properly sealed)
  • Dry goods (tea, sugar, powdered milk, potatoes in a box, etc.)
  • Canned goods
  • Homemade meals (must be dated and labeled)
  • First Aid Supplies (Band-Aids, alcohol, adhesive tape, etc.)
  • Childcare products (diapers, wipes, etc.)
  • Menstruation products 
  • Simple mature products (adult Depends, etc.)
  • Pet food and supplies
  • Masks, sanitizer
  • Video games
  • Etc.

Most Helpful Practices

  • Sharing testimonies and experiences on social media to help the operators know what’s going well and what can be improved.
  • Trying to make contributing to the fridges a regular commitment.
  • Donating with care and intention, rather than using this as a way to discard items you just don’t want. 

Unhelpful Practices

  • Storing food without lids, outside of bags, and excess of food. This can contribute to unsanitary conditions and food waste.
  • This location has a door to enter the insulated pantry. Please do not leave things outside of the pantry.
  • Organize items when you contribute.

Ways to Continue Supporting

  • Volunteering to help clean and organize the fridge.
  • Contributing items to the fridge.

Victor says that while helping to run and operate the fridge can be “fulfilling,” it can also be frustrating. The Lena Street Fridge is a public experiment studying mutual aid practices and a public archival project for Ourchive215. Ourchive215 hopes to share their findings once they have gathered sufficient information to serve as a model for other communities looking to start a fridge. Though they are still in the early stages of the project, Victor says one of the findings is the constant trivialization of mutual aid efforts. He wants people to see community fridges as community responsibility rather than using it for instant gratification, meaning people should give the fridge what they would expect to get from their own. However, he is very encouraged when he sees how the community shows up for the fridge by organizing for it. He also signals that future fridges should be built where people need resources, specifically East Germantown.

Germantown Community Fridge (20 W. Armat St. & 19 E. High St.)

What Items are Acceptable?

  • Refrigerated goods  (fruit, milk, eggs, veggies, etc.)
  • Dry goods (sugar, flour, bread, etc.)
  • Canned goods
  • Raw meats (must be placed in the freezer and packaged sustainably)
  • Homemade meals (labeled and dated)
  • Masks, sanitizer
  • Child care items (diapers, wipes, etc.)
  • Menstrual items
  • Pet Food
  • Bags (plastic, paper, and reusable)

Most Useful Practices

  • Social media posts and emails updating the condition of the fridge (spills, temperature, etc.).
  • Offering to pick things up or getting reimbursed for shopping.
  • Reaching out for creative ways to contribute to the fridge.
  • Organizing the fridge when you donate

Unhelpful Practices

  • Germantown Community Fridges do not accept clothes. 
  • Leaving boxes after you donate. Take the trash with you or break it down and put it in the provided bins near the fridge.

Ways to Continue Supporting

  • Grocery runs (with reimbursement, if you choose).
  • Consistent contributions.
  • Taking food. It’s vital that food cycles out.
  • Donations from bakeries and restaurants,
  • Monetary donations through Venmo & Cash App
  • Sandwich Sign-up
  • Fridge Check-In’s

Jane reflects on the impact of the fridges, saying it’s been amazing. She says the fact that people are still showing up and it’s lasting this long shows that people are “invested.” That makes her happy because the fridge cannot be a “solo project.” She says, “it allows people to help in a way that they want to help, which I feel like is true mutual aid.” While there are highs and lows, she says it’s been “cool and fun.”

The Germantown Info Hub is one of over 20 news organizations producing Broke in Philly, a collaborative reporting project on solutions to poverty and the city’s push towards economic justice. Follow us at @BrokeInPhilly.