Erin Kelly

Members of the New Haven community in need of food or hoping to donate food can now head to the Dwight Community Fridge located at the YMCA Daycare Center. 

The community fridge project was started by Sydney Maubert ’22 ARC and later taken over by Josie Steuer Ingall ’24, and is now supported by the New Haven YMCA. Located at its Daycare Center on Howe Street close to other nonprofit services, the location was selected to be more accessible to the community and allow Yale students living off campus to contribute more readily. Black Graduate Student Network President Jerome Carter SOM ’22 and the Yale School of Architecture Dean Deborah Berke helped fund the fridge. According to Ingall, Yale Farm is currently the fridge’s main donor.

“Community fridges act as a grassroots response to a dire food insecurity crisis,” the team wrote in an Instagram post. “Any food insecurity or forms of repression can harm anyone, especially historically marginalized people. We’re all one large financial burden away from potentially being hungry.”

The fridge was officially put into use last week. It accepts produce; eggs; baked goods; prepackaged meals; non-perishables; labeled, individually portioned homemade meals; bottled water and other household items such as toilet paper, sponges, soap and menstrual products.

Ingall said that the fridge receives weekly donations from the Yale Farm and follows the general principle of “take what you need, leave what you don’t.” Ingall is hoping to add more packaged goods and ready-to-go individually portioned meals such as pastries that would be more convenient to those in need.

The idea of starting a community fridge came to Maubert when she was researching the urban difference at Yale School of Architecture. She felt her experience in New Haven was separate from the city community at large. Maubert hoped to establish a sense of kinship between Yale and New Haven and began speaking to people in the community on their past experience with mutual aid organizations. 

Ingall, who has been living off campus since August 2020 and in the Dwight area since July 2021, said the increase of students moving off campus has shifted the character of the neighborhood and led to rent increases from $100 to $500 last year. 

“We are part of a shared neighborhood community,” Ingall said. “And it’s very easy to self-segregate and [become] the informal [15th] residential college. I don’t think we should be doing that. I think that there’s a responsibility to practice citizenship for somebody who lives off campus and is a resident of the city. And I think people should find that actionable and should want to do something to recognize that shared neighborhood community.”

It took Maubert a long time to find a location for the fridge as many churches she reached out to were shut during the pandemic. But during a casual conversation with friends, she learned that the YMCA offered assisted living infrastructure for low-income families and children. 

“Most of the families have younger children,” Maubert said. “So I think that’s what made it an ideal place.”

YMCA got on board with the project after Maubert reached out to them in May 2021. District Executive Director Erin Kelly said that there are many local families living within their community who come and go in and out of the facility every day, and she hoped they can take advantage of the community fridge or donate to it at the same time.

To make more people aware of this community fridge as a resource, Kelly said that YMCA has been spreading the words and flyers among businesses, families in the community and the action groups they are in partnership with.

“I would really like to dispel the impression that this is a student project,” Ingall said. “I want this to also be an opportunity for students to meet their neighbors who aren’t students. Cultivating that shared, communal experience is a goal for me.”

The YMCA Daycare Center is located at 48 Howe St.