Monday, October 26, 2020

A Visit to the East Village Community Fridge and Food Pantry

Text and photos by Stacie Joy

I arrive at S’MAC just in time to catch East Village Neighbors volunteer-group organizer Diane Hatz and S’MAC owner Sarita Ekya stock up the community fridge and food pantry, located outside S’MAC restaurant at the corner of 12th Street and First Avenue.
The fridge is a group effort, and began when Sarita and her husband Caesar Ekya (co-owners of S’MAC), saw a post in East Village Neighbors Facebook group about setting up a fresh-foods community fridge. 

Their first attempt was knocked over and KO’d after only three days, but Sarita and Caesar bought and donated a previously owned model (along with the cabinets that now hold the dry goods) on Craigslist, and hired a local contractor to bolt them down to prevent further shenanigans.
In additional to lots of fruits and veggies, Diane brought healthy food options (dairy products, grains, heat-and-eat meals) from Trader Joes, and Sarita restocks the freezer with both four-cheese and cheeseburger premade S’MAC mac-n-cheese casseroles. You can heat them up at home, but if you have no access to an oven, the S’MAC team will bake your meal for you on-site. (Each casserole feeds one to two people.)
East Village Neighbors is looking for reliable volunteers to help manage, stock and clean the fridge, and purveyors, supermarkets, and local restaurants that may be able to help with weekly food and goods drop-offs. If you can help, please contact the group via email, here:

The fridge is also in need of cash donations, which can be made here.

The group is also hoping to help spread the word to people in need, the fridge and food pantry for dry goods is open 24 hours a day and is restocked as needed. 

When I asked how fast the food goes, Sarita tells me it’s gone in less than 24 hours, and sometimes she needs to restock multiple times a day. The demand for healthy food for those in need in the community is high.
The community fridge motto is “take what you need, leave what you can,” and is made possible by S’MAC, Change Food, East Village Neighbors, and Local Roots NYC. If you’d like to donate homemade food, they ask that it be clearly labeled, dated, and individually wrapped. Diane reminds me with a smile, “No half-eaten cookies.”


Anonymous said...

Thank you to everyone involved. I plan to drop off some produce this week.

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful thing. Kudos to the owners of this business for spearheading this. We all could benefit from kindness right now. Our community is wonderful. Very smart to bolt the refrigerator to the wooden plank.

Emily said...

I love how this neighborhood (and New Yorkers) take care of each other.

Neighbor said...

This is lovely. I plan to donate a bunch:)

DMH said...

Thanks so much Stacie and EV Grieve for the wonderful article! And thanks for all the nice comments and donations have started coming in!! We are so grateful for everyone's support - this is your fridge so please feel free to donate, take what you need, or even organize the shelves if you're walking by and it's a mess.

The food goes super quick so any and all help really appreciated. Oh - and we have started running funds through the nonprofit Change Food so it's tax deductible. yeah! if you'd like to contribute.

Thank you so much!!

Diane and the East Village Neighbors Team

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Anonymous said...

Is this one still operating? Thanks!