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MEET THE FOUNDER: Michelle Nelson, Ph.D. (PART 1)

By: Brittany Horowitz

Bright yellow refrigerators have been appearing throughout Philadelphia, and Michelle Nelson, Ph.D., the founder of The Mama-Tee Community Fridge Project, is the woman behind this lifesaving endeavor. Read on to learn more about Dr. Nelson and how she is working to combat food waste and insecurity in Philadelphia.

Brittany: In July, you started to install yellow refrigerators in various Philadelphia neighborhoods. They are filled with food and beverages for anyone in need, and the concept is, “Take what you need. Leave what you don't.” Can you tell us a little more about the work you do?

Dr. Nelson: Food is a right, not a privilege. The goal of The Mama-Tee Community Fridge Project is to help those who need food. Our project provides sustainable food for those in communities where healthy food options are restricted or nonexistent due to the absence of grocery stores within convenient traveling distance. We work with non-profits, restaurants, grocery stores, and individuals by collecting and sharing food that may otherwise go to waste. We are also encouraging community leaders and local businesses to help us with this effort.

Brittany: Can you share an update on where things stand?

Dr. Nelson: I am excited to share that we currently have 17 Mama-Tee Fridges throughout Philadelphia. Four have been placed in senior citizen facilities, which might surprise some people; however, we have many neighbors of the low-income senior population who have sadly been forgotten. They are vulnerable, and we must take care of them. I work with my team to conduct neighborhood analyses to ensure we’re choosing areas with the most need. We also look for areas where there are members of the community who we can rely on to stock the refrigerators with extra food. You can visit our website to see a list of the current Mama-Tee Fridge locations.


The first community fridge was launched at 7th & Girard at Ambassador Restaurant

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