Serving the Community through Design: Bergmeyer x YouthBuild Boston’s Community Fridge Project

A project with a shared purpose: supporting community food needs while creating design pathways for students.

    The underrepresentation of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) among design students is a concern for everyone in our professional community. One way Bergmeyer is trying to address this disparity is by creating design education opportunities for local students at the K-12 levels that will introduce them to architecture and design. Members of our team have partnered with YouthBuild Boston’s “Designery” to create an after-school design opportunity for their student interns focused on an important issue in their communities: Food insecurity.

    According to Project Bread, the food security of people of color in Massachusetts was disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. In October 2020, 1 in 6 white households with children in Massachusetts were food insecure versus 1 in 3 Black households and 1 in 4 Latino/a households. While there are government programs to assist residents in need, the eligibility requirements exclude many families from accessing these benefits.

    Community fridges are designed to offer essential groceries to those in need. All one has to do is walk up to them and “take what you need, give what you can.” These “Freedges” are run entirely by volunteers who coordinate, maintain, and oversee the offerings. There are some community fridges located in and around the Greater Boston area (see current locations), but there is a growing need for more. Part of the challenge for the students' design of a refrigerator shelter was to address the difficulties many people have with getting access to fresh, healthy, and nutritious foods.

    Bergmeyer had several goals in partnering with YouthBuild Boston on this volunteer project. We aimed to connect students to a design challenge that will positively impact their community, give them exposure to how we as designers work in the real world as a design collaborative, and create valuable associations with the students should they need mentors on their design paths. We hope that this partnership will result in the construction of a new community fridge shelter in Boston and help these students see their design ideas come to life.

    The students in action designing the fridge shelter at YouthBuild Boston.

    To see this project through to completion, we are asking for support from our AEC community. If you’re interested in contributing by donating materials, helping to build the shelter, or by creating another educational design challenge for students with YouthBuild Boston, please reach out to

    Scroll through excerpts from the student's design presentations for the community fridge project. During YouthBuild Boston’s Designery spring session, Bergmeyer worked in tandem with another organization called Haley House Farm & Garden, a Boston-based farm and community garden. The students that partnered with Haley House were asked to create habitats for beneficial pollinators.

    Join the YouthBuild Boston team for an open house on Thursday, April 29th from 5:00 - 6:00 PM EST to celebrate the work the Designery interns have been doing this past Spring 2021 session through their final fridge shelter design presentations. At the end of each presentation, there will be an opportunity to ask questions and give comments to the young people either through the chat function or using your mic. We hope you will join us!

    Click here for the ZOOM MEETING LINK!