Restaurateur brings Feed the Fridge program to Montgomery County

Feed the Fridge Founder Mark Bucher in Takoma Park. (WTOP/John Domen)

A food program that provides free grab-and-go restaurant meals to children and adults in need during the coronavirus pandemic has just arrived in Maryland.

Restaurateur Mark Bucher, co-owner of Medium Rare restaurants, who launched “Feed the Fridge” last summer, said the first Maryland refrigerator landed in Montgomery County at the Takoma Park Recreation Center Friday.

“Feed the Fridge is incredibly important to our community,” said Takoma Park Mayor Kate Stewart. “COVID-19 has showed us what we’ve known all along: That food insecurity and housing insecurity are huge issues and right now they’ve become ever more urgent.”

Currently there are 19 refrigerators plugged in around D.C., but the program is expanding due to need.

Bucher said Feed the Fridge is also installing five refrigerators in various Montgomery County Public Schools Friday. The cost is $1,200 a day to fill a fridge.

“We raise just enough every day to support all the fridges we have,” Bucher said.

Each refrigerator, similar to those found in convenience stores with glass doors lined with shelves, is stocked each day with about 100 meals.

The goal is to use local restaurants located within a few miles of each fridge to stock the meals. Typically, fridges empty out daily with no questions asked. There is no guard, no paperwork, or hassle.

“We pay restaurants $6 a meal, and they’ll typically make a thousand meals a day for us one day a week — it allows us to keep the mom and pops operating,” Bucher said. “Restaurants have been really crushed. This is our way to make sure they got the money that they could keep their nose above the water level.”

Sometimes Medium Rare has to fill in the gap when donations from the public don’t cover the daily costs.

There are hundreds of requests from around the region for more fridges.

“We know people need to eat right now,” Stewart said. “We need to make sure they get the food they need and they’re able to access it with dignity. The ability to come here, pick up fresh meals with no question asked, for free, is a great way to provide support in our community. We’re so glad they’re here.”

John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

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