A new community fridge organized by the USC Community and Health Involvement Project (CHIP) aims to provide free access to essential food items for local residents facing food shortages.

The fridge, located in Chinatown at the ProjectQ Salon Community Center at 818 North Spring St. was established on Oct. 5 and is filled with essentials such as milk, canned foods and freezer dinners.

“We basically have what we call health sites all over L.A. with the goal of serving underserved communities,” said CHIP President and USC junior Addie Kapsner. Integrating a community fridge as a health site was another way of caring for these communities, she said.

According to Kapsner, when choosing where to set up the fridge, the group focused on prioritizing Black Indigenous and people of color business owners over larger franchises in an effort to stop contribution towards gentrification in the area.

CHIP selected ProjectQ Community Center, a non-profit organization that provides a safe space for LGBTQIA+ homeless youth. The organization has services including free gender-affirming haircuts, workshops and job placements, among others.

“We are going back to the basics of needs. As a community center for ProjectQ, what we do is we give free haircuts to homeless and housing insecure queer folks of color, but we’re living in a time where that is not the main need. We just need to feed folks,” Executive Director and Founder Madin Lopez said. “Being able to have a community fridge with free food changes the game completely. We’re just proud to be able to serve our community in that way.”

Before the establishment of the community fridge, ProjectQ worked to combat food insecurity through their food and hygiene boxes, which were directly delivered to people in need.

However, with the fridge now available donations are beginning to increase.

“I’d say that the ratio of people coming to get food is just as high as those coming to drop food off,” Lopez said. “People are willing to give in this situation just as much as they’re willing to receive.”

Community fridges operate within a system based on mutual aid. This means that anyone within the community is able to take out food or restock as needed. CHIP also coordinates with local restaurants providing produce donations to the fridges, and the club works to keep a stock of hygiene products near the fridge as well.

ProjectQ is committed to hosting the fridge for one month, and according to Lopez, the fridge has been “really successful” so far. Their next step is working to translate the signs surrounding the fridge to further communicate with residents of the area about the fridge’s available resources.

“Our staff is really enjoying it because everyone that works here has either been homeless in their past or is so committed to helping our housing insecure community that this is only a positive addition to our space,” they said.

Community fridges like this don’t operate individually. LA Community Fridges (LACF) has worked to establish fridge locations around the Los Angeles metropolitan area since early July.The LACF Instagram page posted the location and details of CHIP’s Chinatown fridge on Oct. 7, and according to Kapsner, the new fridge operates as part of the LACF system of fridges.

Members of the surrounding community in Chinatown donated the fridge and they work in conjunction with CHIP to maintain and stock it.

According to a post shared to CHIP’s Instagram page, @uscchip, on Oct. 6, the group is looking for help with regular fridge check-ins, cleanings, and/or donations. The Instagram page also features a link to a Bubble page that locates nearby community fridges.

If you would like to become involved with fridge check-ins, cleanings, and/or donations you can reach out to uscchip@gmail.com or DM their instagram page @USCChip.