Community coalition opens first community refrigerator in Mott Haven

Local artist Rocio Marie who painted the fridge.
Photos courtesy of Daniel Zauderer and Charlotte Alvarez

A pair of middle school teachers teamed up to help residents gain access to healthy food options in the south Bronx, an area  of the borough known for its food deserts.

Daniel Zauderer and Charlotte Alvarez, sixth grade teachers at the American Dream School in Mott Haven, recently launched a community refrigerator at the intersection of 141st Street and Saint Ann’s Avenue.

“Food insecurity is rampant in the south Bronx, in Mott Haven in particular,” Zauderer said to the Bronx Times. “People are hungry.”

Zauderer and Alvarez connected with the Bronx Community Foundation and Assembly Candidate Amanda Septimo and quickly the community fridge came into fruition.

The community refrigerator is located outdoors and provides community members with 24-hour, no-questions-asked access to fresh food, according to the founders. The Mott Haven Fridge operates with a “take what you need, give what you can” philosophy and is stocked by a grassroots network of community partners, maintained by a team of local volunteers and provided with ongoing funding by the Bronx Community Foundation.

Since they launched it nearly a month ago, the pair said that it has been a huge success as residents constantly take and replenish the food supply. They shared that one student’s mom is undergoing chemotherapy and still takes time to clean the fridge.

“You wouldn’t imagine how quickly the food needs to be stocked,” Zauderer commented. “The community is supportive of the fridge.”

He noted many people were worried the refrigerator might get stolen, similarly to the one in Rockaway Beach, so eventually residents chained it to the store.

According to Zauderer, using the community fridge is easier than waiting on a long line at a food pantry or filling out forms for assistance. Also, instead of simply receiving food, a community fridge allows those who use it to give and take.

Zauderer stressed there are no plans to take away the fridge even after the pandemic ends.

“Until they figure out how to end hunger it will be here,” he said. “The other thing is, it helps people think about food and access to food in a new way.”

On Oct. 18, there was a ribbon cutting for the community fridge.

“This group is stepping in to meet the immediate needs for high quality, free, healthy food while we work on the long-term solutions to food insecurity and we are doing so hand-in-hand with community,” Septimo added. “I couldn’t be more thrilled to see this effort come together.”

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