From a Single Fridge to a Network of Nourishment

Mar 22, 2024

How the Hoberman Family’s Initiative is Combating Food Insecurity in Westchester and Beyond

Philanthropy and giving back have always been important to the Hoberman family. For decades, they’ve volunteered, wanting to lead by example for their three daughters. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit Westchester, her then-high school-aged twins, Alexa and Jordan, took a cue from their parents’ playbook, launching the Friendly Fridge Network alongside two local peers, Charlie Hirschhorn and Ryan Frieman. 

“Food insecurity has become an important cause for our family,” says Suburban Jungle Strategist Robin Hoberman. “As one of the parent leaders for the Friendly Fridge Network and an active Auxiliary Board member for Meals on Main Street, I  have seen firsthand the direct impact of our volunteering and work. We reach all age groups and demographics and have learned a lot about neighbors helping neighbors. I love volunteering together as a family.” 

A pandemic need becomes a pioneering movement

Launched in the early days of COVID-19, the Friendly Fridge Network quickly became – and remains – a vital lifeline within Westchester, Brooklyn, Harlem and Connecticut. Underscored by the power of community and the impact of youth leadership, what started as a way to help residents in need has transformed into a pioneering approach to combating food insecurity.

“Our involvement started as working to get a single community refrigerator up and running in Port Chester,” Robin explains. Unfortunately, this fridge was shut down. But instead of giving up, they saw it as an opportunity to pivot.

“The founders recognized a need and decided to do something about it. The overwhelming response helped power the network’s growth, reach, and impact.” Today, Robin says, The Friendly Fridge Network provides accessible, nutritious food to those in need through community refrigerators and freezers.

How the Hobermans fill the fridge

With their older siblings in college, much of the daily on-the-ground work is spearheaded by Robin’s youngest daughter, 15-year-old Ella, as well as the two younger siblings of the co-founders, Marley Frieman and Ryan Hirschhorn, continuing the legacy of philanthropy and making significant strides in their community.

To keep the network moving forward, Robin and Ella spend most Friday afternoons setting up a Saturday pantry, sometimes serving over 150 families. In collaboration with Meals on Main Street and a local church, Provision Pantry is part of the Friendly Fridge Network venture, expanding its efforts to reach more families with rescued food. Their initiative also extends to local elementary schools, where they supply snacks for students facing food insecurity, ensuring items are accessible anonymously. Food deliveries to local freezers and fridges are part of the weekly routine.

The reach of the Friendly Fridge Network is vast, with refrigerators and freezers strategically placed in areas such as Brooklyn (the original Friendly Fridge), Harlem, Greenwich, Stamford, Norwalk,  Port Chester, and Rye Brook. These locations serve as food distribution points and symbolize the community’s commitment to supporting each other. The initiative also includes rescuing food from local elementary schools and restaurants, minimizing waste, and maximizing the resources available to feed those in need.

What comes next: keeping the momentum going

As the Friendly Fridge Network continues to grow and evolve under dynamic teen leadership, the non-profit leans on its community of volunteers to spread the word and keep fridges and freezers filled. Equally importantly, the network provides a framework for others inspired to start their community refrigerators, offering resources and support to spread this movement beyond the tri-state. This past month, a Friendly Fridge Network in Stamford launched their fridge and freezer.

This innovative approach to tackling food insecurity reflects a broader trend of grassroots initiatives that leverage local resources and community spirit to address global challenges. The Friendly Fridge Network, focusing on teen-led community fridges and freezers, aims to provide immediate relief to those facing food insecurity and empower the next generation of change-makers. By involving young people in these efforts, the Hoberman family fosters a sense of responsibility, empathy, and leadership among teenagers, preparing them to tackle societal issues with compassion and innovation.

As the Friendly Fridge Network grows, its impact resonates beyond the immediate beneficiaries of the food distributed. It is an example of the power of community action and how universal values – compassion, generosity, and unity, for starters – can impact meaningful change. Their work feeds bodies and nurtures spirits, reinforcing the belief that we can create a world where no one goes hungry.

Learn more about the Friendly Fridge Network. 

Instagram: (The Friendly Fridge Network Instagram) 

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