Community fridges began to pop up during the pandemic as a way for communities to help those struggling with food insecurity. And although many have since shuttered, the S’Mac Community Fridge in Manhattan’s East Village is still going strong.
The fridge was started by Sarita Ekya, owner and chef of a restaurant called S’Mac. Ekya talked to the Parents YouTube channel about what led her to start the fridge and to keep it going.
Part of the motivation, she said, came from wanting to get her children involved in community service and volunteering. “A lot of shelters and places won’t allow kids [to volunteer,]” she said. But when it comes to the community fridge and pantry, “our kids can be involved. They can help.”
Ekya said other volunteers have also brought their kids along to help pick food out at the grocery store and deposit it in the fridge and pantry.
“It’s definitely for the community. It’s not for us to judge or pick who gets it to use it, who needs it,” she said.
Food insecurity is a massive problem in the United States. According to Feeding America, 44 million people are food insecure in the U.S., and 13 million of those people are children. Considering that almost 40% of the total American food supply ends up in a landfill, community fridges are a great way to ensure that available food gets to the people who need it most.
Ekya said she hopes more fridges are launched and maintained across New York City.
“It’s take what you need, leave what you can, and no questions asked. If it fills, everything will be empty within an hour. So, there’s that much need,” she said.
The YouTube video is a couple of years old, but the S’Mac Community Fridge is still operating. It even got a recent makeover from a local artist.
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