Vegan Community Refrigerators in NYC Provide Access to Free Groceries for Those in Need – NBC New York

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What you should know

  • While community refrigerators in New York City have been providing food insecurity to people for years, plant-based refrigerators are designed to ensure that those with special nutritional needs or diets, such as vegetarians and vegans, have access to free food as well.
  • Outside the Overthrow Boxing Club on Bleecker Street in NoHo, the Overthrow Community Fridge offers healthy, all-plant-based alternatives for hungry New Yorkers. A second plant-based community refrigerator debuted outside Essex Market on the Lower East Side last Saturday.
  • The refrigerators were developed by a group of activists who want to bridge the gap between food insecurity and plant-based foods

While community refrigerators in New York City have been providing food insecurity to people for years, plant-based refrigerators are designed to ensure that those with special nutritional needs or diets, such as vegetarians and vegans, have access to free food as well.

Outside the Overthrow Boxing Club on Bleecker Street in NoHo, the Overthrow Community Fridge offers healthy, all-plant-based alternatives for hungry New Yorkers. From pre-cooked meals to the essentials in the pantry, those who don’t know where their next meal is coming from can come to Bleecker Street and get what they need.

The refrigerator was developed by a group of activists who want to bridge the gap between food insecurity and plant-based foods. Eloisa Trinidad, the executive director of Chilis on Wheels, an organization that aims to bring vegan food to everyone, and one of the founders of the Community Fridge, said opening a plant-based fridge was something her organization wanted to do for a while .

“I think there’s always this fear of the okay, if we really go vegan or plant-based, will people actually donate and understand what that means? Do we want to exclude others? How is that viewed? ”Trinidad said, recalling that co-founder and community organizer Power Malu was also a little scared at first. However, Chilis on Wheels had a seven-year lead in serving vegan food to the community, so Trinidad knew that it would work.

“I think if you get the message on purpose and explain it, take the time to make sure it’s visible in the fridge, people tend to get it, and that was the split with the fridges.”

Trinidad says they have not received any donations of animal products such as fish, chicken or cheese since it opened. If you ever receive a non-vegetable donation, simply give it to another community refrigerator in the area.

There are several homeless shelters, schools in the area where the refrigerator is located, and the NYU campus is also not far away. Trinidad says they hope to clear up some of the common misconceptions about what food insecurity looks like for New Yorkers.

“There is a misconception that food insecurity or hunger looks a certain way and that tends to come across as someone who is not housed or looks neglected. People who have come to the fridges or even to our food counters look more like your neighbors, sometimes they’re teenagers, sometimes they’re students, “said Trinidad.

Both Chilis on Wheels and the refrigerator aim not to differentiate between “who has and who does not”, as Trinidad puts it. Instead, they aim to provide food to anyone who needs them for any reason.

It is a misconception that food insecurity or hunger see a certain way … people who have come to the fridges or even our food counters tend to look like your neighbor, sometimes teenagers, sometimes students

Eloisa Trinidad, activist and community organizer

“There’s a lot of shame too, those who are unsure about nutrition but aren’t unsure may feel uncomfortable taking the first step to ask for food. There are parents … who are afraid to speak up, and so there is this lingering shame, “Trinidad said.

On June 15, the West End Community Fridge on the Upper West Side had to close after just nine months. The organizers behind the refrigerator said in an Instagram post that the West End Church where the refrigerator was located was “forced to make this difficult decision” after complaints from neighbors because of the increasingly hostile nature of the complaints.

The West Side Rag reported that the neighbors were generally unhappy with the loitering and excessive noise caused by the refrigerator in their block. One woman even said it resulted in public bowel movements and urination.

Trinidad says this is due to a “not in my neighborhood” mentality, but luckily they didn’t have similar issues with the fallen refrigerator and even got support from the local council. However, she knows that this wasn’t the case for everyone who wanted to start their own refrigerators.

“There was a group of people who wanted to open their own refrigerator outside of their business and they made the mistake of asking their community board first, and the community board said no. And so it’s really something to do first and then ask for forgiveness later, ”said Trinidad.

Last Saturday, Malu opened its second plant-based community refrigerator just outside Essex Market on the Lower East Side.

“We accept majority donations, but please remember NO EGGS, FISH, MILK, MEAT. We love fresh vegetables and fruits, ”read an Instagram caption calling on the community to donate food and resources for the fridge.

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