Meet the Organizers Behind Providence’s Community Fridges
Refri PVD and the Providence Community Fridge are improving access to affordable, healthy food in Providence.
During the pandemic, cities across the country have seen community fridges pop up on sidewalks and street corners, offering free food to anyone who needs it. From a glance, these free fridges seem to come to life overnight, but there is a lot of organizing behind the scenes to make it happen. Get to know the two organizers behind Providence’s latest community fridges, Dana Heng of Refri PVD and Sara Federici of the Providence Community Fridge.
Dana Heng, Refri PVD
705 Westminster St., Providence
Dana is a resident artist mentor at New Urban Arts, a community art studio for Providence high school students. As an artist and community organizer, Heng uses art as a tool to engage the local community. In 2017 and 2018, she organized the Queer/Trans Zinefest, a Pride Week event at AS220 that showcased Providence-based artists in the queer community who might not have access to other art spaces. She was also commissioned to make murals for City Walk, an Urban Trail project that installed public art works to encourage the use of public spaces throughout Providence.
When Dana organized Refri PVD, the first community fridge in Providence, she painted it with bright colors and friendly-looking fruits to engage passerby and welcome anyone who was hungry. In the spring, she looks forward to painting the shed structure that protects the fridge. As the weather gets warmer, she also hopes to host small events and pop-ups at the fridge to encourage the local community to get involved. She wants inspire others to take action in their own neighborhoods.
“I want people to feel empowered,” Heng says. “There’s a lot of space and opportunity in Providence to do what you want to do if you have an idea and initiative and drive.”
Sara Federici, Providence Community Fridge
640 Broad St., Providence
Before the pandemic hit, you could often find Sara at the Tailor Shop, where she would set up Pop-Ups by Primrose, a mobile food business offering a variety of menus from pasta to pretzels. Sara became passionate about food justice and food equity while studying culinary arts and nutrition at Johnson and Wales University. After graduating, she worked with children and their families at Hasbro to teach nutrition classes and offer cooking demonstrations focused on healthy food. She also taught free cooking and nutrition classes at the local YMCA. But then the pandemic came and classes were put on hold while the need for access to affordable, healthy food became even more severe. That’s when Sara decided to become part of the free fridge movement.
After struggling to find a host for electricity, the Providence Community Fridge is up and running outside of Project Weber/RENEW, a local nonprofit that offers harm reduction services. Sara hopes that the fridge will help single-parent families or low-income families that struggle with access to healthy food.
“Regardless of your socioeconomic status, where you live, your job or lack of a job, I believe you should have good food and enjoy eating it,” Federici says.