What to know
- While community refrigerators serve those who are food insecure in New York City for years now, plant-based refrigerators aim to ensure that those with a special dietary need or follow a specific dietary lifestyle, such as vegetarians and vegans, have access to free food as well.
- Located outside the Overthrow Boxing Club on Bleecker Street in NoHo, the Overthrow community refrigerator is offering healthy, completely plant-based alternatives for hungry New Yorkers. A second plant-based community refrigerator debuted outside the Essex Market on the Lower East Side this Saturday.
- The refrigerators were created by a group of activists seeking to fill the gap between food insecurity and plant-based foods.
While community refrigerators serve those who are food insecure in New York City for years now, plant-based refrigerators aim to ensure that those with a special dietary need or follow a specific dietary lifestyle, such as vegetarians and vegans, have access to free food as well.
Located outside the Overthrow Boxing Club on Bleecker Street in NoHo, the Overthrow community refrigerator is offering healthy, completely plant-based alternatives for hungry New Yorkers. From fully cooked meals to essential pantry items, those who may not know where their next meal is coming from can come to Bleecker Street and get what they need.
The refrigerator was created by a group of activists seeking to fill the gap between food insecurity and plant-based foods. Eloisa Trinidad, CEO of Chilis on Wheels, an organization that aims to make vegan food accessible to all people, and one of the founders of the community refrigerator, said opening a plant-based refrigerator was something her organization had wanted to do. for some time now.
“I think there is always this fear of ok if we make it really vegan or plant-based, will people actually donate and understand what that means? Will we exclude other people? How will this be viewed? “Trinidad said, recalling that the co-founder and organizer of the Power Malu community initially felt a fear as well. Chilis on Wheels, however, had a seven-year start with the vegan food service to the community and so Trinidad knew it would work.
“I think if you are intentional about the message, explain it and take the time and make sure it is visible in the fridge, then people tend to understand it and that is what the disconnect was before with the fridges.”
Trinidad says that since they opened, they had not had any donations of animal products such as fish, chicken or cheese. If they ever receive a non-basic plant donation, they simply give it to another community refrigerator in the area.
In the area where the refrigerator is located, there are several shelters for the homeless, the school and the NYU campus is not too far away. Trinidad says they hope to address some of the common misconceptions about what food insecurity looks like for New Yorkers.
“There is a misconception that food insecurity or hunger appears in some way, and this tends to seem like someone who is homeless or who may seem vague. “People who have come to the refrigerators or even parts of our meal tend to look like your neighbor, sometimes they are teenagers, sometimes they are students,” Trinidad said.
Chilis on Wheels and the refrigerator alike aim not to distinguish between “who has and who does not,” as Trinidad puts it. Instead, they aim to provide food for anyone who may need it for whatever reason.
“There is also a lot of shame, those who are insecure about food but not insecure about housing can feel uncomfortable taking the first step in seeking food. “There are parents kanë who are afraid to talk and so there is that constant shame,” said Trinidad.
On June 15, the West End Community Refrigerator located in the upper west was forced to close after just nine months. Organizers behind the refrigerator said in an Instagram post that after complaints from neighbors, West End Church, where the refrigerator was located, was “forced to make this difficult decision” because of the “increasingly hostile nature of the complaints being made.”
West Side Rag reported that neighbors were generally unhappy with the noisy noise and excessive noise caused by the refrigerator that was in their block, one woman even said this led to public defecation and urination.
Trinidad says this is due to a “not in my neighborhood” mentality but that fortunately, they have not had problems similar to the Overthrown refrigerator and have even received support from the community board. However, she knows this has not been the case for all those who have wanted to start their own refrigerators.
“It was a group of people who wanted to open their fridge outside of their business and they were wrong to ask their community board first and the community board said no. And so, it really is something you have to do first and apologize later, “Trinidad said.
Last Saturday, Malu opened their second plant-based refrigerator, outside the Essex Market on the Lower East Side.
“We accept donations from most, but please keep in mind NO EGG F, FISH, MILK, Meat. We love fresh vegetables and fruits, ”reads an Instagram post urging the community to donate food and resources to the fridge.