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What's Happening?

Powering up Fehr Avenue Farm

The refrigerator is in an unusual spot - outside, in a retrofitted pavilion that can be accessed 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 

Open it up, and you’ll find fresh vegetables, pre-packaged meals, snacks for children, eggs and more, all free for the taking, no questions asked. 

“We always put goodies in, too,” said Jammella Anderson, founder/director of Free Food Fridge Albany, while tossing cookies into the refrigerator on July 1, the first time it was stocked. 

The fridge is located at the corner of Fehr Ave. and Central Park Road in Schenectady, at the urban farm run by Schenectady Community Ministries (SiCM). The hope is that making food readily available to residents and passersby reduces food insecurity in the neighborhood. 

“Food is a human right,” said Anderson, whose work with Free Food Fridge Albany has been featured on the cover of Time magazine. “People shouldn’t have to jump through hoops to get it.”  

The fridge is the product of an exciting collaboration between Schenectady Community Ministries, The Schenectady Foundation and Free Food Fridge Albany. 

Uploaded Image: /vs-uploads/2022-blog-images/290886607_10158897730722205_1435146876639470667_n.jpgBecause the Fehr Avenue farm lacked electricity, a creative plan to power the refrigerator had to be devised. 

The solution: two solar panels, Uploaded Image: /vs-uploads/2022-blog-images/solar panels .jpgmounted to a post, that charge a battery that connects to the fridge. John Reschovsky, a retired engineer and longtime SiCM volunteer with expertise in off-grid solar, designed and oversaw the installation of the solar panels. Reschovsky, at left, gives the thumbs up to the inner workings for the panel at the July 1 event when the fridge was turned on for the first time; and at right stands in the shade of the panels. 

The purchase of the panels, shown below, was funded by The Schenectady Foundation through a $9,700 grant to Schenectady Community Ministries. 


Uploaded Image: /vs-uploads/2022-blog-images/290428211_10158897731077205_5660634578909409753_n.jpg

“It's a small investment to do something really innovative and beautiful,” said Robert Carreau, executive director of The Schenectady Foundation. 

Carreau noted that the project was a perfect fit for the Foundation, which has made improving community access to healthy and nutritious food a priority. Overall, the Foundation has invested approximately $500,000 in food-related projects in the past year. 

Free Food Fridge Albany launched in 2020, and there are now nine Free Food Fridges in the Capital Region - six in Albany, one in Troy and two in Schenectady. The Electric City’s other Free Food Fridge is located at the Schenectady Community Action Program headquarters on Albany Street and was installed earlier this year. 

The Fehr Ave. fridge will be stocked by a network of volunteers with food from farms, restaurants and other sources. 

“The hard part starts now - keeping the fridge stocked as often as possible to get through the hard days and hard weeks,” Anderson said.

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Shown above with the fully stocked fridge are, from left, Rev. Amaury Tañón-Santos, executive director of SiCM; Leah Egnaczyk, farm coordinator of Schenectady Urban Farms; and Anderson.

The Fehr Avenue farm includes garden beds, bees and egg-laying chickens, as well as a community herb garden where medicinal plants are grown. These plants are used to make healthy and healing products such as teas and salves, which will also be available to residents for free in the Free Food Fridge. 

“We are all pretty excited about bringing what has been a two-year process into reality with a solar-powered fridge at Fehr Ave. farm,” said Melissa MacKinnon, Farms Manager for SiCM.

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