Solar-powered refrigeration that could help families affected by food insecurity due to the pandemic or disaster relief areas is being built by a Dayton-area company and a California-based non-profit organization.
The organization, Impact the Change, said it set out to end food insecurity nationwide by creating a completely green solution that can be used to store food.
The off-grid, fully-sustainable, 100% solar-powered refrigerator unit, which resembles a semi-trailer or shipping container, was turned on Monday outside buyCASTINGS.com’s Solar Power & Light in Miamisburg
The concept, which provides 2,000 cubic feet of refrigeration and a 1,000-cubic-foot control room, can transform the way food banks and aid groups work by increasing their ability to store and transport healthy, perishable food to those in need, according to Impact the Change co-founders Jonathan Stone and Dawn Elyzabeth Stone.
“Some states throw out ... billions of pounds of food and that’s why we decided to build these,” Jonathan Stone said. “What we’d like to do is get organizations and different corporations, take them by the hand and show them that if we work together, we can create change. We can make a difference.”
Dawn Elyzabeth Stone said Impact the Change’s creation of the completely mobile unit was the culmination of three years of planning, research and development and building. The units, which have been created from 40-foot refrigerated cargo containers, are already in communities in Southern Californian and in Georgia.
“The gentleman out there (in Atlanta) has gone from feeding 3,000 families to 14,000 families a week because they have a unit over there to help supplement some of the amazing food they can bring in now,” she said.
The new cold storage units, Ohio’s first, will be deployed across the state within the next few months, Jonathan Stone said. Each unit able to be powered up and refrigerating food within 30 minutes, he said.
The units also will help communities during a disaster, regardless of power interruptions, including blackouts. During a power outage, solar technology will generate each unit’s power, virtually eliminating food waste and operating entirely off the electrical grid.
Each unit comes with Wi-Fi, so first responders may work from any location.
Miamisburg’s Solar Power & Light’s engineering team provided the solar power — eight solar panels on each side — that is used to sustain the refrigeration even when the sun is not shining.
Neil Chaudhry, the company’s founder and CEO, said he learned about Impact the Change about five months ago and was immediately intrigued.
“I think it’s a great cause,” Chaudhry said. “We’re wasting millions of pounds of food while people are going hungry in a country like America, which is supposed to be Number One in the world as far as a developed country. To me it just struck me that how could that be, how is that happening and why is that happening? One of the reasons is that we have food containers out there, but they’re not refrigerated.”
Dave Burrows, Dayton Development Coalition’s vice president of engagement, said he first saw the refrigeration unit three weeks ago in California and then again Monday at Solar Power & Light in Miamisburg.
“I just was amazed at the opportunities that this has for people who are starving, natural disasters,” Burrows said. “There’s just so many things that this is good for.”
Dayton Development Coalition is working closely with Impact The Change on potential incentives for the non-profit to relocate to Ohio and start manufacturing the refrigeration units in mass quantities, he said.
Having such a unit available in the Dayton area would have helped the communities that found themselves without power in May 2019 after a tornado ripped through the area, he said.
“This is a great opportunity for the community,” he said. “It’s a potential great job creator and a great partner for the Dayton region, so that’s why we want to be involved.”
For more information, visit www.impactthechange.org.