Things are tough for a lot of people right now, especially in the big cities, and some people are dealing with that in New York City by stocking refrigerators with free food. That’s free as in completely free, available to anyone without question, which I think is a good idea. Yes, there’s the possibility of abuse, of some people taking more than they actually need, or people who don’t really need the food taking it, but–and I may be naïve, which you could also say about the people stocking the refrigerators–I’d rather take that chance than let some people who are genuinely in need go hungry. For some reason it reminds me of a book of Anansi stories I had when I was a kid, and while I don’t remember the exact story I do remember Anansi being caught in a flood and washed away from his home. On his way back he’s hungry and takes a few vegetables from a garden, and I remember the storyteller saying that it was a local tradition that a hungry person was allowed to take food if they needed it. Typically Anansi is lazy and a trickster, although his schemes often go wrong, but in this particular story he really was hungry and just wanted to get home and only took what he needed. So every individual’s behavior varies, and often people can be trusted.
What I really like, though, is that some of the refrigerators are being decorated, like the one above that was painted by artist Hugo Gyrl, who’s based in New Orleans, and, sad as it may be, I like the tribute to George Floyd next to it. Community, after all, isn’t strictly local. Check out The Friendly Fridge on Instagram for more. Putting out free food is a friendly enough act but adding the decoration makes them even friendlier; it makes them part of the community. I don’t want to oversimplify this because there are a lot of complicated issues here involving poverty, hunger, and also race. At the same time maybe some of what’s needed here is to simplify things, rather than relying on complicated schemes, to trust people.