For the past three years, Mary’s Center’s Silver Spring clinic has been home to one of the many refrigerators in the region that supplies fresh meals daily to anyone who needs a meal, no questions asked. This project, known as Feed the Fridge, was founded in March 2020 by Mark Bucher, who is also an entrepreneurial restaurateur and owner of Medium Rare. Bucher created Feed the Fridge with two goals in mind: fight food insecurity in the DC region and help local restaurants stay in business during the COVID-19 pandemic. While Feed the Fridge was initially started as a short-term response to the pandemic, Bucher and his team realized that their model of providing food at accessible, safe locations is essential in helping families attain meal security.
Mary’s Center’s Silver Spring clinic is proud to be a site for one of these special fridges. Since May 2020, between 30-75 meals have been delivered daily to the refrigerator at the clinic where Mary’s Center participants and community members can pick up food for themselves and their families. In explaining why he chose Mary’s Center to be the location for the Silver Spring fridge, Bucher cited Mary’s Center’s longtime commitment and involvement in the community. “Mary’s Center is of veteran status here in Montgomery County,” said Bucher. “Feed the Fridge was new and needed to align itself with somewhere that shared the same kind of missions – solving a problem and being there for people.”
Zulma Aparicio, Director of Operations at Mary’s Center’s Silver Spring clinic, has seen firsthand how the fridge impacts the experiences that participants have at Mary’s Center. She explained that many folks come into the clinic prepared for a full day of appointments, where they can meet with a primary care provider, dentist, nutritionist, and have any necessary tests or scans done all at once. Adding a meal on top of this array of services is just another example of Mary’s Center’s dedication to all-encompassing care. “I think that having the fridge has made it easier for people to access food since it’s right there after their appointments, but also makes people want to come back to Mary’s Center. They know we have the extra resources to support them and their families in this way,” Aparicio explained.
In addition to daily meals, the fridge has recently been stocked with baby formula and food to help families access these goods despite national shortages and price hikes due to inflation. Aparicio explained that having baby formula and food in the Silver Spring fridge has been extremely beneficial. “Sometimes we hand out the formula directly to mothers in need who just had a checkup for their baby. It’s great to be able to give it to them immediately,” she said.
When asked about a lesson he has learned in running Feed the Fridge, Bucher responded “it takes a village. A village of dedicated, empathetic, hard-working people to make this happen.” Mary’s Center is proud to be a part of this village and is grateful to Feed the Fridge for helping our participants have access to nutritious meals.