“We’ve been moving a lot of heavy things over here,” laughs RVA Community Fridges founder Taylor Scott, gesturing to the newly constructed walls behind her.
The building at 2919 North Ave. isn’t exactly glamorous—but it doesn’t need to be. Matchbox Mutual Aid Kitchen, when complete, will house fresh food, pantry items, kitchen equipment and refrigeration for both RVA Community Fridges and Richmond Food Not Bombs.
Scott says the partnership was a no-brainer. “We have the exact same thing in mind. It’s been cool because we just want to cook some food and we’re all trying to figure out, ‘How do we bring food to the community? How can we get that done in the North Side?’”
Since its inception in January 2021, RVA Community Fridges has been peripatetic, existing only through the good will, donated fridges and hard work of dedicated volunteers. To have a clean, air-conditioned brick and mortar with ample square footage is invaluable for Scott.
It’s priceless for Food not Bombs, too, an organization that has been serving the Richmond community for more than three decades, first operating out of volunteers’ homes before moving into artist hub Createspace in 2017.
Every Sunday at 4 p.m. – rain or shine – Food Not Bombs volunteers serve vegan and vegetarian meals to those who need them in Monroe Park.
In February 2022, the organization announced that they were moving on from Createspace and seeking out a building all their own, preferably in the South Side, East End, or North Side, “that is on the bus line and easily accessible.” By November 2022, Food Not Bombs announced that they had found exactly such a space, which they would be sharing with like-minded friends RVA Community Fridges.
Now, it’s all happening.
“When they told us a couple of months ago, ‘OK you’ll be getting your certificate of occupancy soon,’ I was like ‘Oh wow, this is happening, it’s here,’” says Scott. “And now we’re standing in here, it’s crazy.”
- Scott Elmquist
- The Matchbox Mutual Aid Kitchen at 2919 North Ave. when complete, will house fresh food, pantry items, kitchen equipment and refrigeration for both RVA Community Fridges and Richmond Food Not Bombs.
Primarily a kitchen
The Matchbox team hosted two community volunteer days in September and Scott says she was blown away by not only how much they got done, but by how many new faces they were seeing.
From building a nifty shed out back to putting up walls that delineate a couple of office spaces, the hands of many made light work. The mutual aid space has a convenient garage door and small patio/yard space so they can easily receive large deliveries.
There’s even a spacious bathroom, plus Food Not Bombs’ industrial-sized kitchen equipment which Scott cannot wait to light up.
The two organizations are still ironing out the details of what day-to-day operations will look like, but Scott is quick to note that this space will not be an open store like North Side’s Meadowbridge. “We will primarily be a kitchen,” says Scott. “Eventually, we will be holding community events and cooking classes, and people will be able to make appointments with us.”
Scott says they’re hoping for an October opening, but no specific date has been set yet. For now, she and her team are simply thrilled that they have a place to store extra food donations, even if just for a few days.
“We’ve never had somewhere we can do that!” she enthuses. “We’ve been having to store things in our apartments for a night, putting stuff in fridges as quickly as we can. We never have any back stock because everything must go out the day of.”
With Matchbox, both organizations can start to plan and prep far in advance, at least farther than ever before. “We can tell people when we will be dropping off food and when so they can actually plan around that,” says Scott.
This new storage capability also allows Community Fridges to partner with more local restaurants and caterers who have extra bulk items which the team can then turn into single-serve, prepared meals.
“I’m excited,” says Scott. “This is going to be so great for us.”
Interested in assisting both organizations further their missions? Here’s how:
Sign up to volunteer. Fill out this form to receive volunteer info for RVA Community Fridges and simply show up to an upcoming meeting to join Richmond Food Not Bombs’ extensive volunteer network.
Donate directly to RVA Community Fridges. Check out their Open Collective site and choose to become a sponsor for anything from free water ($5 a month donation) to cooking supplies for prepared meals ($50 a month donation).
Check your toolshed. RVA Community Fridges and Food Not Bombs are looking for additional tools and materials to build out Matchbox Mutual Aid Kitchen. Send Community Fridges a DM on Instagram or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have donations.
Hop online for virtual meetings. RVA Community Fridges hosts a bi-monthly virtual meeting—hop on to Instagram Live to stream the meeting or join via the group’s volunteer Discord channel.
Stock a fridge. There are now 13 free food fridges located throughout the city. Check out this handy map (created by local Kavya Graf) to find the fridge nearest you.
Party down. Both Richmond Food Not Bombs and RVA Community Fridges frequently team up with community partners to host benefits, ranging from shows at The Camel to makers markets at breweries. Follow their social pages for upcoming events.