Chicago High School Students Tackle Food Insecurity

Serving in Solidarity

In Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood, buildOn students from Benito Juarez Community Academy and Curie High School are uniting to address one of their community’s greatest concerns––hunger. Together, with the local carpenters union and the South West Collective, they’re building Love Fridges––public refrigerators that provide fresh produce, canned goods, and non-perishables to those in need. 

According to the USDA, more than 34 million people, including 9 million children, in the United States are food insecure. But thanks to the Chicago Love Fridge initiative which launched in 2020, more than two dozen local communities are finding relief through these free-access community fridges. 

“It’s been helping so many people,” says Andrea Alanis, buildOn’s Chicago Program Manager. “The people who do stock the fridges, they really care about community members and giving back what they can for those who need it.”

Sadly, the COVID-19 pandemic only exacerbated food insecurity concerns across the country, and made in-person service extremely challenging. Many soup kitchens and food pantries have also implemented new safety policies which affect how and when people serve.

Fortunately, our students found an ingenious way to continue service and support their neighbors at the same time. By teaming up with members of the local carpenters union, they learned how to build and install refrigerator structures that are protected from the elements. They also painted the structures and distributed them in their neighborhoods. Working together, they were able to build, paint, and deliver each unit––an incredible display of solidarity and dedication that is making a real difference in their community. 

Through buildOn’s Service Learning Programs and projects like The Love Fridge Chicago, students learn how to lead by first learning how to serve––and they’re introduced to skills and opportunities they may not have received otherwise. “Getting a chance to work with carpentry for the first time was really fun and interesting,” says Linda Sanchez, buildOn Chicago student from Curie High School. “Everyone was really nice and overall I had a really good experience.” 

Inspired by our students’ work with The Love Fridge Chicago and want to support more student-led service in our communities?