While FunkyTown Fridge does receive regular donations from corporations like Pepsi, they’ve already had to turn down some offers due to lack of capacity.  Image courtesy FunkyTown Fridge

FunkyTown Fridge is growing. Even if their Instagram page with more than 7,000 followers was recently hacked and they had to switch to an alternate, their hunger for change is unabated.

Image courtesy FunkyTown Fridge

What started as a single free-food fridge on the Near Southside in 2020 and has since expanded to two other locations will soon plant its fourth community-supported fridge on May 15, this one on the East Side. And as they’ve expanded their number of fridges, they’ve also launched free back-to-school breakfast programs and Christmas toy drives. The folks at FunkyTown Fridge estimate they’ve fed thousands of families.

Founder Kendra Richardson says all this activity is causing some growing pains. Which is why after operating out of the United Fort Worth community center for the past year and a half, FunkyTown Fridge is looking to secure a permanent distribution center in the neighborhood where Richardson grew up — Stop Six.

Image courtesy FunkyTown Fridge
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“The goal is to get enough donors or to get the community to give enough money so that we can buy the center,” Richardson said.

The proposed location isn’t just because Stop Six faces heightened food insecurity. For Richardson, it’s personal.

“When my mother was a young mother, we lived in a project where there was a trail that you could take to the market,” Richardson said. “We would get all our groceries there because there weren’t any other grocery stores nearby.”

Generations of her family shopped at this particular market in Stop Six, which is now called Morning Market, but when Richardson saw a for-sale sign in the window in early 2022, she realized that Stop Six might be losing an important pillar of the community. She inquired with a Realtor and figured out how much it would cost to outright buy the building.

Image courtesy FunkyTown Fridge

On March 8, FunkyTown Fridge put out a call to action on its post-hack Instagram page, FridgeTalkTV, detailing their ambitious goal to raise $500,000 to purchase the building and establish a distribution and community center that will allow them to expand their programs.

“This building is located in the heart of Stop Six,” the post reads. “For the past few years, this beloved community has suffered the violence of gentrification like so many others we know. This building remains, and now it could be hours.”

The historic Stop Six neighborhood, named for the eponymous stop on the electric streetcar line that once ran between Fort Worth and Dallas, is going through changes. The demolition of public housing in the proud but impoverished community has continued to raise concerns of gentrification among community activists despite the explicit reassurances of “revitalization without gentrification” from developers and planners.

“We want to see ‘FunkyTown Fridge’ on this building and continue to build the community and not see this building be taken away from us,” Richardson said.

The need for food assistance is perhaps greater than ever. Before COVID-19, 13% of Texans faced food insecurity, and that number nearly doubled by mid-2021 to 21%, according to the Texas Research-to-Policy Collaboration Project.

Organizations like FunkyTown Fridge, although dwarfed in comparison to the Tarrant Area Food Bank, still play a critical role by serving hyper-local communities that may lack access to the transportation needed to reach larger food pantries.

By securing a distribution center and expanding their services, Richardson hopes FunkyTown Fridge could play an even greater role. She says that while they do receive regular donations from corporations like Pepsi, they’ve already had to turn down some offers due to lack of capacity.

“We want to have storage for more food, be able to accept and distribute clothing, and eventually get a kitchen in there in order to have kids come in before and after school to help give them a sense of stability, because a lot of kids don’t have it,” Richardson said.

So far, FunkyTown Fridge has raised only a few thousand dollars toward their goal. Still, Richardson is optimistic and persistent. And she has reason to be. Even though she lost her largest platform for fundraising back in February, she still has a volunteer list of 300 people, multiple fridges, and plenty of hungry mouths to feed.

“This is me persisting,” Richardson said.