Part of the Food Policy Community Spotlight Series
Name: One Love
What They Do: One Love is a Brooklyn-based nonprofit organization focused on increasing access to healthy foods through community fridges. Asmeret Berhe-Lumax founded the organization in 2020 when she wanted to take action in response to overwhelmed food banks and pantries and to address health, education, and food insecurity. She learned about the concept of community fridges, in which a refrigerator is installed in a public space and community members stock it with fresh foods for anybody to take, and she and her daughters decided to create their own, the first One Love Community Fridge.
One Love has since grown to support not only three of its own community fridges but also 25 others throughout Brooklyn and Lower Manhattan. One Love emphasizes making these fridges a part of the fabric of the community rather than a temporary emergency response.
How They Do It: One Love is interwoven with four “ecosystems” or networks:
- Food-to-Fridge addresses the issue of food waste. Local businesses, restaurants, and individuals can donate food that is still safe to eat but would otherwise go to waste. Volunteers pick up the donations 365 days per year and use them to stock the fridges.
- Farm-to-Fridge works with small farms that can donate fresh produce for the fridges and educational programming on how to access fresh produce and what to cook with it.
- School-to-Fridge focuses on providing education to youth and working to remove the stigma associated with hunger. Schools organize food drives and packing days to encourage students to donate food and volunteer their time. Schools may also host speaking engagements that allow One Love or other community fridge representatives to educate the student body about their work.
- Chef-to-Fridge engages local chefs to prepare meals for the community fridges, thus allowing community members to access a full meal rather than individual ingredients they would have to assemble into a meal on their own.
The goal of these four interconnected networks is to engage as many people as possible in order to build a strong sense of fellowship while addressing the community’s needs.
One Love encourages healthy, fresh foods to be donated to the fridges so that people have the opportunity to choose healthier options that may be harder for them to access. Foods should be donated to the fridges only if they are still safe to eat (i.e. not expired or rotten). The fridges are open to anyone in the community to either provide or take food.
Volunteers are scheduled to check on the fridges to make sure they are clean, well-stocked, and do not contain any food that has gone bad. However, the demand is so high that foods rarely remain in the fridges long enough to expire.
Mission: One Love Community Fridge works to eradicate hunger, food insecurity, malnutrition, and the stigma associated with all three, through an integrated, multi-generational, and inclusive movement that centers on access to fresh foods, nutrition education, and sustainability.
Latest project/campaign: One Love has committed to adding more community fridges across the city over the next year. The demand for this resource has been extremely high over the past three years, and One Love is taking all possible steps to ensure that the city’s fridges keep running indefinitely.
In late July 2023, the organization set up a new fridge in Gowanus in partnership with Van Alen Institute, a nonprofit that uses an inclusive, community-led approach to create equitable housing communities. This partnership will tie together food and housing access as Van Alen incorporates the community fridge concepts with their own programming.
Major Funding: Champions of Change, as well as other private donations, foundational support, corporate donations
Annual Budget: Not disclosed
Interesting fact about how they are working to positively affect the food system: One Love’s approach is not about “giving back” but about investing in the community and in one another. The organization prioritizes finding joy throughout the process. People should enjoy being part of the solution, and the community fridges should provide a joyful space where everyone is treated with respect and dignity.
One Love Community Fridges:
1. 432 Myrtle Ave, Brooklyn
2. 1596 Church Ave, Brooklyn
3. 303 Bond Street, Brooklyn
Core Programs: Community fridge
Number of staff: 0
Number of volunteers: 250
Areas served: Brooklyn, NY
Year Started: 2020
Founder: Asmeret Berhe-Lumax
Social Media: Instagram: @onelovecommunityfridge