There is a great emphasis on food at this time of year, especially in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving. But the need is there every day of the year. A recent report from Hunger Free America showed that one in seven New Yorkers experience food insecurity. These numbers are even worse in the Bronx, where one in four residents lacks reliable access to food.
“It’s important to hand out turkeys for Thanksgiving, but people have to eat 52 weeks during the year, and that’s why we need solutions,” said Joel Berg, CEO of Hunger Free America.
Our New Yorker of the Week is trying to build a grassroots solution that allows people in the South Bronx to help their own neighbors.
The cold temperatures do not deter Daniel Zauderer from storing the communal refrigerator he launched in Mott Haven.
“It’s more than just feeding people. It gives people a sense of community. It gives people a space they can be proud of,” he said.
Zauderer has long been a giver. As a middle school humanities teacher, he raised money for his South Bronx students.
“Books for the classroom or whatever,” Zauderer said. “But this year there was no classroom because of the pandemic.”
His students and their families were having a hard time.
“Many of them were front-line workers, delivery workers, undocumented immigrants who lived close to each other, got COVID,” Zauderer said. “The pandemic just ruined them and their lives.”
So Zauderer and his colleagues raised money for food, internet hotspots and toys for children.
And then he learned about communal refrigerators, a place where people could leave food that their neighbors could take as needed.
“In a place that fought so hard for access to fresh and healthy food, I knew a communal refrigerator would be ideal.”
Shortly afterwards, Zauderer set up two of them in Mott Haven. Neighbors keep a watchful eye on the refrigerators. And restaurants regularly share fresh meals.
Meanwhile, Zauderer contributes to refrigerators around town all year round.
“Hunger is, you know, it’s eternal,” he said as he drove to another communal refrigerator in East Harlem. “So you know people’s support should not be limited to November, December.”
Zauderer is currently looking to pick up even more food and more volunteers to distribute it around town.
“Make sure people in need get the food they need to feed their families as close to them as possible,” he said.
To inspire people in his community to feed their struggling neighbors, Daniel Zauderer is our New Yorker of the Week.
To contribute to the Mott Haven Fridge Network, go to motthavenfridge.com.