DO YOU HAVE EXTRA FOOD? : Jumbos Community Fridge and Pantry Diversify Access to Nutrient Rich Food

By Camille Minns, Joshua Dickens, and Nicholas Stewart

Listen to Us Talk: Camille Minns, Joshua Dickens, and Nicholas Stewart

In this Article UEP Students Joshua Dickens (Right) and Camille Minns (Center) answer five questions by Nicholas Stewart (Left) about the enactment of the Jumbos Community Fridge and Pantry.

Now nested outside Dewick Dining is a resource that is hoped to be a permanent contributor to the health and wellness of the Tufts Ecosystem.

The Jumbos Community Fridge and Pantry (JCFP) started off as a grant proposal refused then later a connection was made to collaborate with different entities on campus in the form of the Food Solutions Coalition.

The Jumbos Community Fridge and Pantry, 2023 Instagram: Jumboscommunityfridge

Through text conversations and a shared google document this interview asked five questions:

Why start this community fridge?

Minns : In Field Projects, we integrate theory and practice by collaborating with local organizations and government agencies to work on real-world challenges. This fridge and pantry were an opportunity to work on a project much closer to ‘home’—right here on campus. Despite its wealth of resources, food insecurity is still an issue present at Tufts University, especially for graduate students who do not have access to the same resources as undergraduates. In recognizing this challenge and the gap in solutions, we sought funding for a community fridge and pantry.

Dickens : Ditto. Well said, Camille! Well said.

What would be the goal of the Jumbos Community Fridge?

Dickens : Experiencing food insecurity, like many other challenges we face, tends to have a trickle over effect, impacting other areas of our lives – studies, performance, nutrition (or lack thereof), or health, just to mention a few. That said, by being a resource that serves the Tufts community, I would imagine and hope that the fridge would simultaneously offer comfort and peace in mind from the ails of food insecurity directly but also from any other areas it may have been negatively impacting in the individual’s life.

Minns : The goal of the fridge is to serve the community. It is meant to stand as a resource for the Tufts Community member who is experiencing food insecurity. If one less student has to deal with not knowing where their next meal will come from, because they were able to collect something to eat from the fridge/pantry at no cost, then I think we’ve done well.

The Food Solutions Coalition can be describe as a space of community affirmation of the realness of food insecurity-within Tufts University , and intentional enactment-from community participatory action research that informed the need for an entity like the JCFP.

What ways do we hope the Jumbos Community Fridge can contribute to the Tufts community?

Minns: My hope is that this fridge and pantry become a symbol and reminder of the need for community care on campus. With the motto, “Give what you can, take what you need”, we should remember that all of our needs and resources are not the same, therefore, if we are in a position to help out one another, then we should.

Dickens: I somewhat got into this earlier with addressing the goal of the fridge. We have no clue what people are experiencing when they arrive on Tufts main campus, leave class, return home, etc. We know what they choose to share, and many people face things like food insecurity alone or (when comfortable) seek support and sometimes find that it does not exist. So for me, I want this community fridge to live as a pillar that supports those individuals as long as they need it, in perpetuity.

Who will manage the Jumbos Community Fridge?

Minns: The Jumbos Community Fridge will be managed by the Tufts Community, just as it was intended. One of the most important aspects in the creation of this fridge/pantry (and any other initiative like it) is the inclusion of structures and systems to ensure its sustained longevity.

While the three of us have graduated, this initiative is nestled within the Food Solutions Coalition and a dedicated Food Pantry Subcommittee, composed of administrators, faculty, staff, and students across Tufts University. We will have a Project Manager and interns who will oversee the day-to-day operations, but we’ve also provided guidance on the doors of the fridge on how to stock and clean the structures, so that Tufts community members can play their role too.

Dickens: Camille covered it, haha. Nothing more to add here.

The Food Solutions Coalition is currently looking to fill its Community Fridge Manager role. Those interested can find it listed on Handshake Job #7913562.

The coalition was able to confront the history and current conditions of food insecurity at Tufts. Realizing that there was a need to help diversify ways the Tufts community can access food,. It is also, a call to action to other universities to champion projects that involve all its stakeholders at the table.

How has UEP prepared us for work like this?

Dickens: UEP is a hub for doers, innovative thinkers, individuals that desire to be change agents. Unfortunately, that sort of work most commonly (or perhaps inherently) starts at the gaps, where the holes are, near demonstrations of disparity or imbalance. Fortunately, for us UEPers, this allows us to more easily find our opportunities and thrive in our purpose.

Starting the community fridge was a manifestation of this – an opportunity with which we found great purpose, understanding the need for it within the Tufts community. And great work requires great support, and we certainly had ample support from others to ensure this came to fruition. It certainly would not have been possible otherwise.

Minns : I would like to believe that students are drawn to the UEP because of their inherent ideals to fostering just, sustainable communities through urban and environmental policy and planning. That is at least the case for us! “We had the plan, we just needed the platform”, as some would say, and as UEP aims to have its students develop into “practical visionaries”, I believe that this project is a perfect example of just that. In recognizing the presence of food insecurity on campus, we planned and implemented a practical wide-reaching, collaborative, community-based approach to addressing this issue.

There is this African proverb that says “if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go further, go together.” The grace Minns, Dickens, and I had for each other navigating the fermentation of this project from inception through actualization, humanized the work we as planners do.

That as practical visionaries an injustice is done to self and the communities we wish to impact when we do not take space to water ourselves. It was an impactful season to see how we each bloomed through community and self-advocacy ; something learnt through the vibrant experiences UEP has to offer.