Neighborhood Fridge offers innovative solution to fighting hunger in Orlando

Katherine Franco worked with friend to bring fridge to business along Edgewater Drive

ORLANDO, Fla. – Katherine Franco has experienced food insecurity in her own life.

She spent the first ten years of her life in the Dominican Republic, where she said members of the community always watched out for each other and ensured no one went hungry.

Watch News 6+ in the player below for live news and original programming:

“And then coming here (to the U.S.), my mom didn’t have much,” Franco said. “(It was) just my mom, her two kids — we were having issues with housing. My mom had to work overnight, all the time. It was just like, we would get what she could give us.”

That experience of going without pushed her toward helping others in need.


“I want to be able to build a space where people who are struggling from food insecurity can have access to these healthy foods because there are so many things that take into effect when you’re not properly being fed,” she said. “Like mental health issues — being overweight comes with a bunch of other issues. So I just want to be part of the movement that brings that resource to people that really need it.”

That desire to help others led Franco to start the Neighborhood Fridge. The fridge sits behind the Laundromart, 5065 Edgewater Drive, and is accessible 24/7.

Check out the Florida Foodie podcast. You can find every episode in the media player below:

“The goal was to target underserved communities,” Franco said. “And then I thought of like, ‘Who do I know that owns a business?’ And I thought of my friend Sean (Nelson). I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh, a laundromat would be great.’”

Nelson and his family own the laundromat and agreed to host the Neighborhood Fridge.

“We need to try and give back as much as we can and not just think about ourselves,” Nelson said in February when the fridge first opened.

Franco said the fridge has seen support from community partners, such as markets who have offered up food to fill the fridge and pantry, as well as individuals.

“The whole point of the project is (to) give what you can, take what you need,” Franco said. “So it’s like if you have some extra groceries at home that you think is going to go bad and you’re not going to be able to eat it you can go out to the local fridge and take it out and then someone that needs it can take it.”

While providing healthy food is the main goal, it is not all that is available to people at the Neighborhood Fridge. The pantry also offers contraception and some groups have also been donating diapers and other necessities as well.

On the latest episode of Florida Foodie. Franco discusses more about how the fridge came together. She also talks about her plans to expand her efforts and what people should avoid donating.

Please follow our Florida Foodie hosts on social media. You can find Candace Campos on Twitter and Facebook. Lisa Bell is also on Facebook and Twitter and you can check out her children’s book, “Norman the Watchful Gnome.”

Florida Foodie is a biweekly podcast from WKMG and Graham Media that takes a closer look at what we eat, how we eat it and the impact that has on us here in Florida and for everyone, everywhere. Find new episodes on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher or wherever you download your favorite podcasts.

About the Author:

Thomas Mates is a digital storyteller for News 6 and He also produces the podcast Florida Foodie. Thomas is originally from Northeastern Pennsylvania and worked in Portland, Oregon before moving to Central Florida in August 2018. He graduated from Temple University with a degree in Journalism in 2010.