A community fridge program in Fort Worth is taking another step toward their end goal of feeding Funkytown — a Free Breakfast Program for students.
Over half a dozen volunteers with Funky Town Fridge distributed 50 hot meals every morning last week to children, parents, and teachers outside the United Fort Worth Justice Center in Southeast Fort Worth. Some 250 meals were distributed throughout the week.
“We’ve been serving people in this neighborhood that are close enough to where they can be able to come pick up breakfast and then still get their kids to school on time or go to work on time,” said Kendra Richardson, Funky Town Fridge founder.
Throughout Fort Worth, Funky Town Fridge operates a handful of community fridges, also known as “friendly fridges” or “community solidarity fridges,” which offer free food to area residents — no questions asked. The fridges remain stocked through community mutual aid — they are maintained by volunteers and stocked by locals with spare food when needed.
Richardson launched Funky Town Fridge amid the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 after learning about similar programs in New Orleans, Houston, and New York City.
Although food insecurity is a contemporary problem, with nearly one in four children in Tarrant County projected to be affected in 2022, according to the nonprofit Feeding America, Richardson said the inspiration for Funky Town Fridge’s Free Breakfast Program goes all the way back to 1969.
“The Black Panther Party was the inspiration,” Richardson said. “Always has been, always will be. That’s my favorite blueprint.”
The first Black Panther Party Free Breakfast Program took place at a church in Oakland, California, where 11 schoolchildren were provided a hot breakfast of grits, toast, eggs, and milk. By the end of the week, there were more than 100 children. And by the end of the year, some 20,000 children were being served by the Black Panthers across 36 cities.
The original Black Panther Free Breakfast Program was in part inspired by research by nutritionist Adelle Davis showing that eating breakfast in the morning improves students’ academic performance. Realizing that food-insecure Black children would struggle to get ahead in school, the Black Panthers sought to directly address the problem.
The conclusions of this research have been expanded upon in the decades since. A 2019 article by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found that food insecurity leads to “adverse social, physical, and psychological outcomes.” And despite decades of social policy aimed to address racial inequality since the first Free Breakfast Program, these problems persist.
That same article by the NIH showed that, between 2001 and 2016, Black and Latinx households were at least twice as likely to experience food insecurity than non-Hispanic white households. It concluded that “discrimination and structural racism are key contributors to inequity in health behaviors and outcomes.”
Although Richardson said they originally wanted to put forth a larger program, comparatively speaking, Funky Town Fridge is off to a good start.
“We just wanted to start where we could and see how we can expand and how much the community gets behind us,” she said.
Considering their first attempt a success, Richardson said that the Funky Town Fridge team plans to serve free breakfasts for at least a week on an annual basis. In the meantime, they’ll keep working to fill stomachs and win over hearts and minds in Funkytown.
“Community activists and leaders should be just as present in the community as the next influencer or rapper or whoever that these kids look up to,” Richardson said, “so our biggest focus now coming into the second year is focusing on the kids, getting to know them, and letting them get to know us, so that we can open doors to politically educate them as well, so they can have those tools that they need to stand up for themselves.”
If you’d like to support Funky Town Fridge in their effort to reduce food insecurity in Fort Worth — whether through donations, volunteering, or hosting a community fridge — visit FunkyTownFridge.org.