Some 30 to 40 people gathered at the corner of 141st and Ann St. outside Chicky’s Mini Market on Oct. 18, to celebrate a new addition to the neighborhood—the Mott Haven community fridge.
In a brief speech, Daniel Zauderer, a 6th grade teacher at the nearby American Dream School who co-organizes volunteer efforts for the fridge with fellow teacher Charlotte Alvarez, said the initial inspiration for the project came from learning that many of his students’ families didn’t have money for food. Many were undocumented and afraid to ask for help.
Initially Zauderer fundraised to buy food directly for his students, but he knew he needed another solution because, “When the money ran out, the meals ran out.”
He praised the fridge as a community-centric approach to the problem.
“The whole movement was rooted in community—neighbors helping neighbors,” he said.
Zauderer highlighted the many individuals and groups involved in establishing the fridge, thanking Alvarez, as well as Desmon and Derrick Lewis, co-founders of the Bronx Community Foundation and State Assembly Candidate Amanda Septimo.
He also thanked volunteers and residents, who have been caring for the fridge since it began operating on Sept. 25, while imploring the crowd to volunteer and donate to help keep the fridge stocked and clean.
Parents with young children and cyclists with leafy greens poking out of baskets watched as Zauderer, the Lewis brothers and Septimo cut length of red ribbon to officially commemorate the event. They then filled the fridge with donations from the crowd, and simultaneously distributed food to a line of about 20 people.
Charles Cloud, 4, slipped through the legs of the crowd holding the knotted handles of a produce-laden bag, struggling to keep it from dragging along the pavement. He added the bag to the pile of donations, before returning to his mother, Erin Cloud, 37, and his sister, Nora, 5.
“It’s really important that the community be in charge of supporting each other,” said Erin Cloud.
The Mott Haven Fridge is part of a growing movement of community fridges popping up around the city. It is the first community fridge with 24/7 access in Mott Haven and only one of a handful in the Bronx.
Ruben “Chino” Calderon, 57, a lifelong Mott Haven resident who is among the several locals who will keep an eye on the fridge, said, “It’s good for Mott Haven. Everybody does their part. Everybody comes—they take, they bring. They bring, they take.”
Zauderer is focused on fundraising to winterize the fridge, which means buying food to keep it stocked and building a shed to protect it during the colder months. Donations are being accepted via GoFundMe.