BRIDGEPORT — Jim and Pam Robbins load up their truck once a year and make the drive from their Will County farm 50 miles north to Chicago to deliver food made with corn grown in their fields.
Some of that food is then distributed to Love Fridges across the city, from Rogers Park to East Side. Any Chicagoan can stop by one of the fridges to get free food.
For the Robbins family, it’s a matter of principle: Food is life, and everyone deserves to live, they said. Their donations contribute to a delicate ecosystem — one the pandemic has made even more delicate: Food insecurity has worsened, and recent inflation has added more stress at the checkout line.
The couple, members of Illinois Farm Families, wants to do their part to make groceries accessible for all.
“Food creates healthy bodies. Healthy bodies stay out of the hospital. If you’re not eating well, you’re not going to have a good outcome,” said Pam Robbins, who has been a nurse and a farm wife for 40 years. “Better lives, better quality of life and less illness. We’re just happy to be able to support that.”
Illinois Farm Families is a group of family-owned farms that regularly donates food to pantries.
Risa Haynes, Love Fridge’s lead food distribution organizer, said the group had been putting food in fridges since the pandemic began. Members reached out a few months ago asking if the Love Fridge organizers could accommodate larger donations, she said.
Haynes met with members of Illinois Farm Families and the Chicago Food Sovereignty Coalition, and they coordinated so an entire pallet of ground pork could be delivered to the coalition’s hub in Pilsen, she said. Farmers took boxes of the pork to Love Fridges for neighbors in need.
In return Love Fridge organizers have shared social media posts about Illinois Farm Families and their experiences with the group.
And the Love Fridge work is going strong, organizers said.
Eric Von Haynes, one of many “spokes” in the Love Fridge wheel, said the numbers of people volunteering and donations have been going steady, allowing the group to restock some fridges twice a day when necessary. They’ve also continued to tailor fridges to the needs of the neighborhoods they serve. Residents in Hyde Park may need sanitary napkins while Englewood families may need laundry detergent, he said.
Soon, some fridges will be stocked with Narcan, as well. The medication can be used to reverse opioid overdoses.
“I feel like we’re a great part of a larger idea, which is creating these spaces where people can get resources when they need them. It’s not just food. Primarily we’re trying to focus on things that keep people alive and that includes hygiene stuff,” Haynes said.
Haynes said Love Fridge is always accepting food donations and volunteers to help stock the fridges. Wanted items include sealed package foods, cheeses, fresh produce, eggs and pastries. No raw meat or fish accepted. To get involved, visit the website.
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