Meet the Innovator Offering Free Healthy Food via Smart Fridges in Low-Income Communities

Dr. Leeja Carter, CEO and founder of the Coalition for Food and Health Equity (CFHE), is also behind a smart refrigerator that serves hospitals and schools with free, nutritious food.

CFHE was founded in response to the pandemic, but today includes initiatives like The Ujamaa Cafe and Ujamaa Well that offer culinary and wellness innovations, as well as health and nutrition education.

POCIT reported that the Ujamaa Cafe has expanded to include a fridge initiative, where tech-enabled refrigerators are placed in regions designated by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA).

Food apartheid and food desert neighborhoods have refrigerators stocked with up to 41 free food and drink options. These neighborhoods are less than a half-mile away from fresh food and nutritious options including chocolate oat milk, hibiscus teas, health-conscious burritos, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, chipotle egg, cheese sandwiches, and overnight oats with vegan, lactose-free, and gluten-free options.

Carter’s refrigerator uses technology to collect data for waste reduction and refilling, as well as tracking user transactions and trends.

According to her statement to the Baltimore Times, the fridge has healthful selections from local companies. The fridge is curated every week based on user activity and weekly analytics. There is no upper or lower limit on the amount of food that humans can consume. Also, our fridges are de-surveilled, which means we don’t track the identity of the person taking the food, only the item itself, in order to curate the fridge.”

Seven refrigerators, including one at the Abramson Cancer Center in Philadelphia, have been put at hospitals and schools across New Jersey.

Carter launched the Sankofa Youth Incubator Program, an educational component of the Ujamaa Cafe at schools, to provide guidance, help, and mentorship to young food entrepreneurs, as well as front-end product placement (AfroTech).

According to the source, interested students can enroll in a nine-month curriculum to develop their own culinary product. We would assist them in selling in a store while also allowing them to join our Ujamaa Cafe business network and be featured in our fridges.”

The Newark School of Data Science and Information Technology, which houses one of the refrigerators, is apparently intending to implement a STEM program.

This curriculum will teach students about the modeling and back-end predictive predictions that go into restocking a smart refrigerator.

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