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Bronzeville, Near South Side

South Loop Love Fridge Needs Volunteers, Food Donations As Demand Stays High

As food costs rise, more residents are turning to The Love Fridge network for help — and the South Loop location is struggling to keep up with demand, a volunteer said.

The South Loop Love Fridge needs donations and volunteers.
Jamie Nesbitt Golden/Block Club Chicago
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SOUTH LOOP — The South Loop Love Fridge that allows people in need to get free food is looking for donations and volunteers.

The 24-hour community fridge, 2023 S. Prairie Ave., is one of 23 across Chicago. More people have been stopping by to pick up food in recent months as food prices rise and people struggle from the financial impact of the pandemic, said Dan Goldberg, who helps manage the fridge.

Food prices are up 8.8 percent from a year ago, according to the August Consumer Price Index from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Many food pantries have struggled to keep products in stock.

Neighbors have tried to do their part to keep the South Loop fridge stocked by dropping off food, but the last six months have been particularly challenging, Goldberg said. It’s not unusual for the Love Fridge to be fully stocked in the morning and completely empty by noon, Goldberg said.

“I think because of the high food prices, the fridge is getting a lot more use. Some people believe that the fridge is for homeless people — it’s for everyone who is food insecure, and that’s a lot of people,” said Goldberg, a food photographer who lives nearby. “You’ve got people who come to save $20 on dinner and others who come here nightly to get dinner for their families. It’s a wide range.”

People can help by bringing groceries to Love Fridges at any time and leaving them for people in need. To volunteer or host a Love Fridge, visit the organization’s website.

Hosts and volunteers of Love Fridges in other parts of Chicago are having difficulties similar to the South Loop fridge, Goldberg said.

The Love Fridge organization does have a central location from which volunteers can pick up food destined for specific fridges. With some neighborhoods going through food faster than others, Goldberg said he tries to avoid tapping into that source, preferring instead to rely on contributions from neighbors.

Local chefs have donated gourmet meals. Justice of the Pies owner Maya Camille Broussard is known to stock the fridge with 25 of her homemade pies at a time, and the former owner of Chef Luciano would stop by Goldberg’s home to make 100 meals for neighbors to take home, he said.

Any of the following is welcome to bring to a Love Fridge:

  • Sealed packaged foods
  • Cheeses
  • Fresh fruit and vegetables
  • Table sauces
  • Pastry
  • Bread
  • Unopened pasteurized milk and yogurt
  • Unopened fruit juices
  • Fresh eggs (with a use-by date)
  • Cured meats (in a sealed container with a use-by date)

Nothing like this is allowed:

  • Raw meat
  • Raw milk cheeses
  • Raw fish
  • Packaged items not labeled with use-by date
  • Opened items
  • Anything you would not consume yourself
  • Half-eaten leftovers
  • Alcohol

That means no leftover pizza or similar discards from your home fridge, Goldberg said.

“If there’s food in there that isn’t good or something that doesn’t look like I would want to eat, I get rid of it. It has to be good, clean, healthy food for everybody,” Goldberg said.

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