A new project at 17 Nassau Ave. aims to unite the community by offering free and readily available food items. The Greenpoint Fridge, which lives outside The Lot Radio, stocks fresh food for any neighbors who want or desire it. Food is provided from local community members and businesses, and volunteers from North Brooklyn Mutual Aid check in on the fridge twice a day to ensure it’s well stocked and sanitary. PPE is also provided near the fridge, so those using the resource can stay safe and protect fellow neighbors.
The Greenpoint Fridge is one of many community fridges stationed in Brooklyn over the past year. Kevin LaCherra, a North Brooklyn Mutual Aid coordinator, credits the anarchist organization In Our Hearts, for the inspiration. Along with many community members, he’d wanted to launch a community fridge in the neighborhood for a while, and once Champion Coffee donated the fridge and The Lot Radio agreed to pay the electric bill, a volunteer schedule and launch for the new project was a go.
Anyone can put food in the fridge, including restaurants who have end-of-day leftovers, farmers’ market stands with excess inventory or individuals who want to contribute. For now, uncooked meat and seafood aren’t encouraged, as they can leak on other fresh food and cause a potential hazard. The fridge has been very well stocked in its early days.
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“There’s tons of ready made food in Greenpoint, that’s a big help to neighbors who can’t cook for themselves, or even people who can,” volunteer Manny Pokol says. “This time has been such a strain on our hierarchy of needs,” they point out, mentioning that even people who typically have the time and money to afford to cook meals, may appreciate the lifted strain every once in a while, and can, of course, pay it forward when appropriate. As a longtime Greenpointer who has struggled with food insecurity, Pokol feels the need for a resource like the Greenpoint Fridge in the neighborhood and notes that more may open, once space and donated fridges become available.
“We’re changing the message about who needs this and who can use this,” Pokol continues. They mention that the current social framework of food pantries and kitchens only encourages people who think they most need it to use the resources, which can cause a major split in society and not allow conversations across social strata.
“The idea of having a fridge outside and giving away food to people for free is not something that our society prioritizes, it’s new and strange,” LaCherra adds. “Mutual aid isn’t charity. We are helping out neighbors and they’re helping us. We’re all working together.”
People don’t have to leave any food to take anything: The fridge is for the community to take as much as they need, whenever they need it. Along with feeding people, The Greenpoint Fridge also helps fight food waste, by creating a space for abundant CSA produce, optimistically purchased bulk perishables, and more to be enjoyed by people, rather than composted or thrown away. The fridge also serves as a community hub, a conversation starter and public entity for and by the people.
“There are very few places in our community where people can gather and not spend money, LaCherra says. “Lately, we’ve seen folks using parks [to be together]. This is what a community looks like, with no barriers to entry. It’s deeply powerful. That is the type of world we should be living in, and we can start it right here.”
The Greenpoint Fridge is open and accessible 24/7. Interested volunteers can sign up to help here.