Community refrigerators stocked with free, fresh food and produce helped many Los Angeles families dealing with food insecurity weather the pandemic.
But now the sidewalk refrigerators have a new purpose, as inflation pushes food prices up. Skyrocketing food prices are bringing a wave of people to the closets for the first time.
The grassroots groups that keep outdoor refrigerators plugged in, running and clean have asked for more volunteers and donations.
One of the websites that helps people find the refrigerators lists the Eagle Rock and Glassell Park sites as “almost empty.” NBC4 confirmed that one cabinet contained only a jar of peanut butter, a can of beans, and some cereal.
“Now that the economy is so bad, every little bit helps,” said one woman, who declined to be named. She grabbed some fresh vegetables and headed back to her pickup truck. “I don’t like to take too much – just what I need.”
Some donors said “it’s not just the homeless who are showing up now,” as the largest groups show up late in the afternoon, usually after work.
Almost all groceries have increased in price. The cost of eggs is up 38% from last year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The price of chicken has increased by 17% and milk by 15.6%.
While some economists have said we may have hit the inflation ceiling, it will be some time before we start to feel that in the supermarket.
Until then, families are turning to the street corner options for help. And donors are asked to keep those refrigerators full.