toronto restaurant

Toronto restaurant puts 24 hour community fridges out front

A Toronto restaurant has put fridges out front that are full of free food and accessible 24 hours a day to address issues of food insecurity in the local community.

You can find the fridges outside Ten in Little Italy, and while there may only be a couple now, they're already about to have more.

"Already we have a commitment of five more fridges, three more locations have been offered and almost 30-plus people have volunteered to take care of them," says Jalil Bokhari, who teamed up with Julian Bentivegna of Ten for the project.

"Right now we have a huge bar fridge with a glass door, looking to place somewhere, and hopefully another regular home fridge, big size, not mini fridge. Initially we just had mini fridges being donated."

You might remember Bokhari for creating another recent splash on social media with his list of Black-owned businesses, which he compiled with a friend.

"I think seeing how that impact worked really fast and affected folks and businesses made it easy to bring this fruition," Bokhari says. "The idea is to channel that access to fresh food to people that don't have that access."

So far, the fridges out in front of Ten are filled with neatly organized healthy produce as well as dried goods, bread and milk. Guidelines posted in the Instagram story of an official account connected to the fridge project instruct donors on how to neatly place their donations, and not to donate anything they wouldn't buy at the store themselves.

"I wouldn't say any one person came up with the idea here, but I saw many pop up around the USA. One of them started by my friend Zenat [Begum] who now takes care of seven-plus fridges around Brooklyn. The idea though was straightforward," says Bokhari.

"Showing how community can get together and form an impact by sharing our wealth and privilege and access to aim to tackle food disparity/insecurity. From the first day we've had many people in and out. From what I understand the fridges are almost empty by the morning and then fill back up halfway through the day."

He says future locations for fridges might include Black Diamond Vintage in Parkdale, a design studio in Parkdale near encampments at Dufferin and Queen, King and Strachan, Regent Park, and Jane and Finch.

"It's not a one person job," Bokhari emphasizes. "This thing can't be possible without a community."

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