Chelsea Community Fridge + Cupboard
April 13, 2021
Nearly one in four New Yorkers lacks adequate food and in response, community fridges started popping up to help support those New Yorkers. Just outside the BID boundaries on 55 West 15th Street (between 5th and 6th Avenue) is the Chelsea Community Fridge + Cupboard. We spoke with Lea Rose, the organizer for the fridge, about how community fridges help combat food insecurity and waste and ways you can support the organization.
How do community fridges work?
Community fridges are a form of mutual aid that operates on a “take what you need, leave what you can, no questions asked” basis. Anyone is welcome to take items, and anyone is welcome to donate items, along with time and effort towards the well-being of the fridge.
Why and when did you start the Chelsea Community Fridge?
I lost my job last year due to the pandemic and was looking for a meaningful way to contribute to the community. I had been involved in the food industry for many years and was always interested in finding creative ways to close the loop between food waste and food insecurity – especially since our area of the city is very restaurant heavy, with plenty of food being thrown out onto the sidewalks that many people call home. At this point, there were already community fridges in other parts of the city and I was inspired to start one in my neighborhood, so last summer I started reaching out to places that I thought might be interested in hosting a fridge. Xavier Mission got back to me the same day I emailed them, and since then, they have been an incredibly generous host and supporter of ours.
Our community cupboard opened in September 2020 and the fridge opened in November 2020. We currently have over 50 volunteers who selflessly donate their time, energy, and creativity to help regularly stock the fridge and cupboard and maintain a clean, safe, and welcoming environment for our neighbors.
How can someone support the fridge?
There are many ways to support community fridges! We are always looking for food and monetary donations. We are also constantly in need of regular volunteers to help with a variety of tasks, including donor outreach, food pickup, or maintenance. You don’t even have to be a formal volunteer to help – if you are just walking by and are able to help tidy up, or wipe the fridge down, or if you spot something, not in our guidelines that you can toss out for us – any bit of help goes a long way. Even just spreading the word via social media or telling your friends and local businesses is incredibly helpful.
What items do you accept?
We accept items that include canned goods, fresh produce, unopened and unused toiletries, as well as prepared food as long as they are sealed in a container, labeled with preparation date and contents. Visitors should only donate food they would consider eating, and should leave the fridge and cupboard in a state in which they would like to use it – we aim to treat every single person who visits with the utmost respect and dignity! Our full donation guidelines can be found here.
What’s the process for volunteering?
Anyone interested in volunteering can email firstname.lastname@example.org – we accept all volunteers, regardless of commitment ability.
Are there any restaurants or larger organizations involved with the fridge?
Our regular food donors are Trader Joe’s, Miznon, Amy’s Bread, Sullivan Street Bakery, Bagel Bob’s on University, and Protein Bakery. We’re always looking for more businesses who are interested in donating food or helping us spread the word!
How can you find other fridges in the city to support?
You can find other community fridges at nycfridge.com – new fridges are popping up regularly and this is the most up-to-date map!