Monday, February 8, 2021

City's first plant-based community fridge is up and running outside Overthrow on Bleecker Street

Yesterday saw the debut of what organizers are calling the city's first plant-based community fridge outside Overthrow Boxing Club at 9 Bleecker St. just west of the Bowery.

Power Malu, a community activist and organizer, and Eloísa Trinidad, executive director at Chilis on Wheels New York and Vegan Activist Alliance, are spearheading these efforts here with the help of many volunteers as well as Overthrow.  

In a statement on Instagram, the organizers stated: 
This pandemic has forced us to take a deep look at the effects of food insecurity in our communities and the health disparities that have plagued our families for decades. We are really excited to collaborate with great people who understand the importance of offering healthy alternatives to our communities in need. This will be the first plant-based fridge in NYC and definitely not the last.
The fridge is open 24/7. People can drop off donations, including new or gently used (clean) clothes, at Overthrow from 10 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. during the week and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekends. 

Here are some common plant-based foods in high demand ...  (per the organizers: no meat, cow, goat milk/cheese or heavily processed foods):
Fresh produce (ALL greens, fruits, and vegetables )
Plant-based milks
Peanut Butter
Fruit preserves (jam)
Whole wheat bread or other whole grain bread
Plain dry pasta
Plain Tomato Sauce or Marinara Sauce
Plain Canned Veggies
Plain Rice
Beans, lentil and other legumes (canned or dried)

All sizes, all genders. (Please no fur coats.)
Socks (new)
Undergarments (new)
Sweatshirts, sweaters and other long sleeve shirts
T-shirts OK, but no other summer clothes such as dresses, tank top etc.
Winter Hats
Water resistant clothing
Sleeping bags
Hygiene Products/Toiletries

People can volunteer to clean the fridge or help sort clothes and nonperishable foods by signing up via the QR code:
You can also use this email:

There's a link here to donate to a GoFundMe to help maintain this community fridge as well as one in the Bronx and Queens.

The fridge has an Instagram account here. Artist Andrea Acevedo painted the fridge. And thank you to Danielle for the top photo and information.

This also marks the second community fridge in the neighborhood. The East Village Neighbors Fridge debuted last fall outside S'MAC on the northwest corner of First Avenue and 12th Street.


Anonymous said...

There is some weird shit going on around the 1st Ave fridge. Good luck. People don't appreciate things given to them over time. They feel entitled to the charity.

Anonymous said...

Like what kind of weird stuff?
*young woman taking each item out of the fridge and throwing it to the ground while yelling, her companion not paying any attention looking at his cell phone....
*patron does an aggressive body block in the middle of the sidewalk as he opens the door like he is in prison and has to defend against all comers making passerbys suddenly need to veer out of the way..
*groups of people hanging out about seemingly trading for items in the fridge...

I'm not looking to see this stuff, I see it in the 30 seconds I pass by at a random time a few times a week -

Anonymous said...

This is a beautiful thing.
Neighbors helping neighbors.
The 1st Avenue fridge has been very successful so far and I'm sure this one will be too.

Anonymous said...

Let me add a couple:
- You cannot reach out inside the fridge without someone's hand is there too, while the person stand zero feet from you, breathing on your neck.

- A crew of ladies arrive daily with big carts in hand, cleaning up ANYTHING that is inside there, leaving it empty, and dragging the loot all the way back to Chinatown. We followed one of them, this is for real.

Sarah said...

People are, in fact, entitled to eat. When you are trying to reach populations who have difficulty accessing adequate services in other ways, you are unfortunately going to have people who are not mentally well coming to you. I'm not sure what the problem is with women taking food back down to Chinatown, which is a neighborhood filled with poor and elderly non-English speakers.

Crowding *is* a bit of an issue and I personally would stand back until other people are finished.

Basically, when you participate in a project like this one, you have to give up most of your desire to control who uses the resources and how. That runs against 400 years of Protestant work ethic and especially 20 years of neoliberalism. Yet look where they've gotten us.

Anonymous said...

The problem with people taking food back to Chinatown is that these women go to every food pantry downtown and take everything they can- to the point that the Bowery Mission and others had to change their policies to ensure that other people could actually get food. This is a fact. Go to TSP on Saturday mornings. Pre covid the park was full of these women waiting to load up in free food. I'd rather see the homeless get it to be honest. These people are like hoarders when it comes to getting food from these places. Are they selling some of it in Chinatown? They aren't obese and they get carts of food every day from pantries. Go see for yourself.

XTC said...

The Chinatown ladies could be legit needy or could be straight up moochers. When you give away free shit in NY you never know. A couple of months ago I put down a bag of groceries inside the door of the TJs mens room and well dressed old dick picked it up and tried to walk out away my shit.

Sarah said...

Like I said, if you want to do something like this, you have to make peace with the fact that some people are going to use it who you think aren't deserving, as well as use the resources in ways you wouldn't necessarily approve of. The problem is that the services that screen and gatekeep have imposed a lot of unnecessary misery along with the good that they do do. If you can't accept that, there are plenty of other ways to help the hungry that are more regulated. Probably worrying about whether women from Chinatown are taking too much food (to the point of following them around??? It's a long walk from 1st & 10th to Chinatown...) is not the best or healthiest thing you could be doing with your energy in these difficult times.

Anonymous said...

A few people sell what looks like food pantry food at the ad hoc flea market on 14th Street. I still donate to the fridge outside Smac but only baked goods and perishables that I think are less conducive to resale. I recognize myself in the comment about “desire to control” and do struggle with that, so donating the way I do is my compromise.

Anonymous said...

Everyone needs to eat, all race of people, young and old. What is the most disturbing is the fact that someone stalked an old lady all the way to chinatown.

John Penley said...

Many food pantries banned the ladies from Chinatown because they went early to the distributions and lined up and took most of the food which they sold at a place in Chinatown. This has been going on for a long time. On a historical note.... Abbie Hoffman , the Yippies and some Black Panthers teamed up during the 67 riots in Newark to take in loads of food to give away because the city was shut down and no food was going in.

XTC said...

Following someone is not stalking if there is no direct or implied threat. There was a clear reason to see where the groceries were going to wind up. Do you own a cell phone? You're being followed. Walk past a CC camera - you're being followed. Youtube? Google? Facebook? You're being followed AND your info is being analyzed and stored FOREVER.

Anonymous said...

@XTC following or stalking it is still creepy. What if these old ladies/senior citizens were the only ones able to travel and they are bringing the food back to others who can not walk? This pandemic has messed everything up, on a global scale. It is time WE all show more tolerance and be more understanding. It seems that of you have the time to follow/stalk someone to chinatown, you have enough time to be more productive.


Anonymous said...

Im not saying i am any more or less needy than anyone else... I sincerely enjoyed when the SMAC fridge came out and the community spirit that came with it during some dark holiday times. I like many am unemployed and doing what ever I can to keep my business open. I was very much dependent on NYCs free meals, but also as a vegetarian I was pretty mmuch living on carbs. The fridge really helped out my diet, and when I had the chance I'd always donate anything I could.
HOWEVER I am very saddened to see the fridge empty and lacking everytime i go by now. I know people are stocking it, I've seen it, but I also am well aware of how the chinatown ladies work. When I was initially getting local food early on, the lines were filled with all kinds of people and everyone was respectful. The chinatown ladies came in hoards slowly but eventually caused the lines to be impossible to wait in around the block. I dont understand it, and as someone who has worked in the commmunity in chinatown, I can assure there are many senior centers and other programs available in that neighborhood to assist with food. So why they need to clear out the fridge... and during free meals at schools they would touch as many bags as possible knowing the policy was you had to take it if you touched it, even if there was a limit in place. It is completely bizarre to me why they come here when again plenty available in chinatown too.. It has honestly put me off the community spirit that was first there. So yes sadly I have chosen to no longer participate in this idea. I commend those of you who do... there is a vast need in this community, but like others I have noticed those in lines are pretty much 100% chinatown ladies who wait well ahead of time in long lines to turn everyone else away.

LPIFLY said...

100%. This was a great idea and there when I needed it. Now its empty even when I know I and others have regularly stocked it. I understand the idea of take what you need leave what you can... but the abuse of the fridge has made that concept no longer what it used to be.

Sarah said...

"The big evil corporations do it, too!" is not quite the compelling argument for one's own conduct that one might think.

"[Ethnic group] is hoarding all the stuff/abusing the system!" is also a narrative that one ought automatically to question. If this was the 1930s, I think we know exactly which group would have been accused of this.

Anonymous said...

Maybe you should go see for yourself and stop making ridiculous and inaccurate comparisons. You have no idea what you are talking about.

Gojira said...

There's a food distribution many Saturdays on 11th between A and B, courtesy of Father's Heart Ministries. When I leave my house in the morning to run errands, I am always struck by the makeup of the line - probably less than 1/4 of it is locals, and 3/4 at the ladies (and men!) who have come up from Chinatown. After they get their bags they do food swaps with each other right on the street, and sometimes leave canned and packaged goods they don't want on top of garbage cans. Several weeks ago I was on my way to Trader Joe's, pushing my cart behind a pair of them heading to 14th Street; I bypassed them but by the time I got out of TJs and headed home, they had set up in the bazaar and were selling the free food they had just been given to assuage their "hunger". The same situation holds true at the Trinity Lutheran Parish food giveaway on 9th and B.

Anonymous said...

Just dropped off some eggs and greens at the fridge (Wednesday 11 am) and note that it was 100% empty (fridge and pantry).

Caesar said...

First of all, a big congratulations to the organizers of this Vegan fridge! Welcome to the neighborhood and please reach out if we can help in any way.

Secondly, I have to say, thank you so much for all of you that care about the community fridge in front of S'MAC. I want to give you some perspective from us who spend hours there and get to see a large cross-section of people interacting with the fridge.

The overwhelming majority of people who use the fridge are using it to pick up a few meals, or other items, for themselves or their families. There is also a constant stream of people putting in a few things here and there but that gets snapped up fast. And then there are people who use it like an exchange — they put in 2-3 items and take 2-3 items. We also have a few dozen volunteers who stock the fridge when they can and also keep it cleaned and organized.

Regarding people possibly "abusing" the fridge by taking too much — there definitely are some who might be taking more than we think they should but it's a minority of the total number of people using the fridge weekly. And from our perspective, all the food in there is a gift to those who need it.

If you do see someone selling food for a couple bucks that they got from the fridge, please remember that they still qualify as someone "in need". A person who needs to make a couple bucks selling food that they were given for free isn't exactly rolling in it nor are they looking to build ill-gotten wealth!

We understand that donating food to the fridge isn't for everyone — there are plenty of other ways to support your community. But please do not be turned off if someone in need isn't using the free food in a manner that you feel they should. We don't know their lives and circumstance and really don't want to police their use of this resource. Let's not take away a resource from the majority just because a minority might abuse it.

Thanks again for all of your help and support. Its been truly a wonderful thing to watch the neighborhood rally around it.

LPIFLY said...

I truly appreciate all the effort and volunteers.