A symbol of community support in the East Village was senselessly damaged over the weekend.
For almost one year the community refrigerator standing outside the East Village’s S’MAC Mac and Cheese restaurant on 197 1st Ave. has served as a small effort to combat food insecurity amidst growing hunger concerns resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. During its tenure it has not only aided feeding those in need, but it has also brought the neighborhood together in order to keep the fridge and the adjacent wooden pantry stocked with goods for anyone to take free of charge.
However, the local humanitarian project was literally left in tatters Sunday morning after unknown vandals trashed the device. The cable powering the icebox was severed, planks from wooden palette upon which the fridge sits was pried apart, and the cupboard holding additional food items was completely pulverized.
“I came across it in the morning. You could see how much anger went into the vandalism. These crooks knew they were hurting our whole community,” Mickey Paul, a passerby who discovered scene, told amNewYork Metro.
S’MAC co-owner Caesar Ekya was immediately called by his employees and informed of the carnage. Helping ensure his neighbors have access to food throughout a time of uncertainty has meant a great deal to him over the last nine months and unfortunately this is not the first time the refrigerator has been vandalized, yet it is the most devastating.
In the past, some shelves had been broken, but Ekya said this time was different.
“On Sunday morning the staff called me, so it must have happened late night on Saturday. It looked like someone tried to move the fridge and there was a ten-pound weight laying there, which looked like they were using to try and break slates it is tied to. This seemed like someone had spent time on it,” Ekya said.
Despite the mess, Ekya was not willing to let this be the end of a community staple. In fact, it means so much to the area that the fridge even has its own fundraiser webpage from where users can donate cash to help keep it stocked. It is with this in mind he went to work and restored it.
“Repairing this we will probably have to get new cabinets, so a couple hundred dollars for that but it’s more about the time it takes to get help to fix this,” Ekya said, adding that someone already offered to donate a new refrigerator if needed.
Volunteers often offer to help stock the refrigerator or provide additional materials at a lost cost or free so that the East Village refrigerator can keep aiding the community. Ekya estimates that it has helped thousands during its time and says that many individuals have often thanked him for providing this access since it is one of the few locations, they can receive free fresh produce.
“Sometimes I hang out and chat with people and they say, ‘This is one of the only places that I get greens and vegetables and things like that.’ So, I know that a lot of people depend on the fridge,” Ekya said.
Although the cabinets are still in needs of repair, the refrigerator is back up and running.
If you would like to donate to the fridge, you can do so HERE.