Poverty and desperation have become all too familiar to Utica over the years, and unfortunately the Pandemic has only exasperated the crisis.
While the stimulus money of $600 gifted to the lower castes will surely solve most of everyone’s financial problems, some have taken it upon themselves to help those in need. Enter Hana Selimovic. Ms. Selimovic saw clearly that Uticans are struggling to get food, and so she acted. She has created what’s called a ‘Community Fridge’.
As seen in the photo, it is quite literally a refrigerator for the community stocked by generous donors. Anyone at any time can simply walk up to the fridge and get what they need free of charge. The fridge has been up running on Oneida Street plugged into the Mini Mart for two weeks now. So far, it seems to be successful.
Handzel: What was the inspiration behind you coming up with a Community Fridge?
Selimovic: It essentially came from realizing that the most efficient and most immediate difference that we can make in Utica is helping folks individually in our own backyard. I think it was just a realization I came to as an organizer. Focusing on simple and small-scale projects like the fridge can make the worlds difference for someone. So, I changed my focus a little bit.
Handzel: How did you acquire the fridge? How did you set it up? Why Oneida street? Do you have some arrangement with the Mart?
Selimovic: So, I got the fridge from a woman in Ilion who sold it for a cool $50. And it runs beautifully. We had some folks who set us up with the owners of the mart and they are graciously keeping the fridge running along with checking on it from time to time. We figured Oneida street is a central location and it’s really become our stomping ground so to speak for anything mutual aid related.
Handzel: Have there been any criticisms of the project thus far?
Selimovic: Not so far. Thankful to have had a very very receptive sentiment to the fridge. And a lot of support!
Handzel: The Fridge has been reported to always be very well stocked. Have you had many people donating?
Selimovic: We’ve had a TON of people donating. People have been coming from everywhere and making homemade meals for it that don’t require meal prep so they take away the need for a kitchen or appliances. It has been a saving grace.
Handzel: What about expansion? Will Utica see more Community Fridges?
Selimovic: Utica will hopefully have fridges in every neighborhood by the end of 2021! East, south, north and west sides. We are already planning a second fridge somewhere in west Utica next.
Handzel: It would seem that you’ve really started something here.
Selimovic: I really really hope so but a lot of people are gonna have to take care of this thing together or it won’t work.
Through the rain and cold today, Selimovic and her friends held a Food Drive at the Community Fridge. In their words, “No one should go hungry for the holidays”. Local vendors supplied coffee and sandwiches, while citizens donated food for the fridge. These young people stood out on the roundabout cheerfully holding cardboard signs advertising the free food offered to any person in need, and many gratefully accepted. It’s a wonder that so much of the acts of humanity that have taken place this year probably wouldn’t have occurred were it not for the tragedies. So, this story is inspiring in its nobility, but also tragic in that it points out just how much of a desperation there is for something as basic as food. Maybe in years to come, the Community Fridge will no longer be needed.