SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — Earlier this month, Sacramento City Council candidate Caity Maple was given a violation notice by the city for an outdoor community fridge that provides free food to those in need.
Initially, she was confused because the notice “doesn’t give a lot of detail” other than it saying the fridge is “outdoor storage of junk or debris.”
“I don’t think it’s a violation,” Maple said. “There’s no trash. I think it’s very beautiful and it’s in good condition and it’s clean.”
The fridge, along with an accompanied food pantry, is outside Maple’s Oak Park home. She says families grab food from the fridge and pantry on a daily basis. The violation notice was given after a community member complained.
“I’m just frustrated. I guess that member of the community, whoever it is that reported it, doesn’t see the value in that,” Maple told FOX40 in a phone interview Thursday. “I’m hoping the city will see it from my perspective and that it’s actually bringing value to the community.”
The communal fridge, which features a painting by local artist Lazzlo, is owned by SacFridge4All. Maple agreed to host the fridge at her home. SacFridge4All has four fridge locations and three pantry locations, according to its Instagram.
It’s not the first time the city gave a notice to a communal fridge site. In Nov. 2020, a fridge in midtown in an alley off of 25th and P streets was removed after a complaint.
There’s a chance the Oak Park fridge could have a better fate. After Thursday’s interview, Maple updated FOX40 in an email saying she received a call from the city’s code enforcement.
She said they’ve worked with other community fridges and are open to a discussion. Maple is looking forward to meeting with them to see if the fridge’s location meets their guidelines.
With the fridge helping less fortunate families and some of the city’s homeless population, Maple said “it’s critical” to keep community fridges throughout Sacramento open.
“I think it would blow people’s minds just how food insecure people in our streets are and how little access they have,” Maple said. “Especially, if you get further out from midtown where there’s a lot of resources, where I live in Oak Park, there’s not as many resources for folks. They have to travel further and further to gain access to things like fresh foods.”
Food insecurity in Sacramento is something Maple witnessed while doing work for Sacramento SOUP (Solidarity of Unhoused People), a nonprofit she co-founded at the beginning of the pandemic. Sacramento SOUP involves volunteers cooking meals and distributing them to less fortunate people.
She recalled a time when she was handing out salads that were donated to the organization.
“I had a gentleman cry and say that he hadn’t eaten a salad in two years because it’s so hard to have access to fresh fruit and vegetables for salads,” Maple said. “That’s the other benefit these fridges are providing is putting fresh vegetables in there. They’re putting in salads, they’re putting in things that are both healthy and good. Those are hard to come by for folks.
Maple was one of many volunteers for the 2022 Point-In-Time Count, which took place this week on Tuesday and Wednesday. It was the first time in three years that Sacramento’s unhoused residents will be counted due to last year’s count getting canceled because of the pandemic.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development mandates jurisdictions to carry out the Point-In-Time Count every two years to receive federal funding for homeless services.
The 2019 survey showed 5,570 people were experiencing homelessness at any given night in Sacramento County, with an estimated 10,000 to 11,000 homeless people each year. Those numbers are a 19% increase from the previous count in 2017.
Maple expects another increase to happen in the 2022 survey.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if we see more than (12,000) and that’s really sad, but also a reflection of a lot of things,” Maple said. “We saw that housing prices went up 20% in one year in Sacramento. We saw that there’s a lack of affordable housing in places for people to rent and go. We’re seeing people get displaced and priced out housing in places like Oak Park where gentrification is taking over. We’re seeing people lose their jobs and their security because of the pandemic, so I think we’re going to see the culmination of all those things.”