There are countless initiatives across the city right now attempting to feed hungry New Yorkers in a time of immense need. More and more restaurants are operating as food banks and using their kitchens to prepare meals for essential workers. The city even launched a program with halal carts offering free meals for those observing Ramadan. At the same time, a record number of food pantries have been forced to close across the city. Over in central Brooklyn, however, there’s a new kind of grassroots activism rallying around the disparities of eating.
In Bed-Stuy—an area populated with a disproportionate number of residents lacking access to healthy and affordable food—Brooklynites have set up a fridge filled with free produce and pantry staples for hungry neighbors who may be particularly at risk right now. The initiative was started in part by Thadeaus Umpster—a member of the anarchist organization A New World in Our Hearts—at 133 Van Buren Street.
"We are not a charity. We are just regular people who believe in creating a better world through mutual aid," he shared with Time Out New York.
The food inside the fridge is mostly composed of produce that was donated by the nearby Greene Hill Food Co-Op, Perelandra (a natural foods market) and Community Solidarity (a non-profit that gets food from Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods as well as CSAs). The Van Buren street fridge has a sister launched by an organization called The Friendly Fridge, which is located at 190 Knickerbocker Avenue in Bushwick with the same premise. Umpster also shared that there are fridges coming soon to Crown Heights and Clinton Hill, but he could not yet disclose their locations. He also said that there is potential to expand the program to Greenpoint as well, though nothing official is yet in the works. For restaurants that may be wondering what to do with excess food that might otherwise go to waste, they are encouraged to reach out to Umpster and his collaborators to donate food.
"We’d love to help others who are interested in setting up refrigerators in their communities, too," he says.
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