By Celina Colby

Jamie Siracusa, the owner of Brothers & Sisters Co. coffee shop in Brookline Village, has run a community fridge for the neighborhood for more than half a year. What began as a simple way to give back to Brookline has become one of the most rewarding career experiences.

“What I really liked about it was that each fridge was its own individual mission. There are vegan fridges, there are fridges with meat, people have different missions about what they feel like is good for food,” says Siracusa. Due to strict health codes in Brookline, her community fridge doesn’t offer meat. But they do stock fresh produce, canned goods, frozen meals, feminine products, and many other offerings.

The way the system works is that a business will host a space for the fridge and pay for electricity. The fridge is run by volunteers who perform tasks like removing expired food, keeping the fridge clean, donating food, and keeping a running list of what the fridge could use. As the holiday season approaches, Siracusa hopes to recruit more donations and volunteers for the project. Anyone interested can find more information on the Brookline Community Fridge Instagram and sign up to volunteer via this form.

“We’re trying to work with more people in Brookline because the fridge is not as stocked as we would like it,” says Siracusa. She’s hopeful for future participation. “In Brookline, in general, I felt like people would be really willing to get involved. That’s the type of community they are.”

Community fridges have begun to spring up all around Boston, including at Mei Mei on Park Drive right on the border of Fenway and Brookline. Siracusa speculates that the popularity comes from the ease of setup for businesses and access for those who need food.

“It’s a no-pressure model, and it’s very convenient,” says Siracusa. “I think people feel more comfortable taking something and people have a choice, and they can go in there, and they have options.” The fridges are a more subtle way to receive assistance without the discomfort of asking for help.

With food banks, including the Brookline Food Pantry, stretched to their limits during COVID-19 and the holiday season, community fridges fill in the gaps providing food dignity and quality sustenance options to the neighborhood. Because of Brothers & Sisters Co.’s location right next to the Brookline Village T stop, it’s become a high-traffic area for community fridge users.

“There is need here,” says Siracusa. “It’s been really cool to see people step up for the community fridges.”