The ReFreeGerator is currently located on the property of Blood ‘n’ Fire Ministries at 300 N Madison St.
Imagine going through an intense leadership program, growing through a pandemic, creating and executing a project that will aid the community, and it disappears overnight.
That was reality for a group of five students from Burris Laboratory School and Muncie Central High School who worked together to provide a service to combat food insecurity in Muncie. The project was to create a “ReFreeGerator” — a refrigerator open to the public full of nonperishable foods to help those who struggle with food insecurity.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, large parts of Muncie lie in food deserts — where residents have limited access to healthy foods due to a lack of grocery stores and transportation access. Feeding America also reports one in four children living in Muncie do not know where their next meal will come from and 78 percent of Muncie K-12 students qualify for free or reduced lunch.
Participating in the Shafer Leadership Academy to grow their professional communication, fundraising and leadership skills, the five students involved in the ReFreeGerator project set out to tackle the prevalent problem of food insecurity.
“The fridge is open to anybody who needs food. If they can, [they’re encouraged to] leave donations of nonperishables at Second Harvest Food Bank and support [us] as much as possible,” said Muncie Central junior Jacob Emert via email. “As my team says, ‘Take what you need, leave what you can.’”
The students were not alone in the project, but they were the ones leading it. High school faculty members and Mitch Isaacs, executive director of the Shafer Leadership Academy, were also involved.
“This was a student-generated idea, led by students,” Isaacs said via email. “I think it’s very notable that high school students executed this project, especially amid a pandemic.”
The students involved communicated with potential business and community sponsors to bring this fridge project to life. Second Harvest Food Bank and Blood ‘n’ Fire Ministries help keep the fridge stocked for the community. The students decorated the fridge with bright colors, and those unaware of the project would assume it’s an art installation.
After more than 40 hours of work, the first ReFreeGerator was stolen from where it was placed on the south side of Muncie. The students believe someone likely took it for scrap metal — as it was not an operational fridge — or maybe mistook it as free to take. After this, the team got back to work. They acquired and painted a new fridge, this time making sure to chain it to the nearby fence and omitting the word “free” from decorations to avoid any confusion.
During this two-semester program with Shafer Leadership Academy, students also spent Saturdays working on other local service projects like community clean-ups. The overall goal of this community service was to shape and mold positive leaders and encourage them to actively seek ways to better Muncie. This program aimed to foster growth in ability and friendships, which students said was successful.
Muncie Central sophomore Jocelyn Roberson said via email the students involved worked on the project one to three times each week for the whole school year. She said the project couldn’t have been completed without the academy, help from the two high schools and sponsorship from Blood ‘n’ Fire Ministries and Second Harvest Food Bank.
“I would just like everyone to know that this was completely a team effort,” Roberson said. “We all did so much and we all worked very hard on this project and are very happy and excited about helping people.”
Contact Sam Shipe with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JournalistSam.