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Mott Haven Fridge

Burroughs Lamar | New York City, United States

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Late last September, when South Bronx teachers Dan Zauderer and Charlotte Alvarez discovered that the pandemic left their students’ families without access to fresh food, the two educators founded the Mott Haven Fridge Network. Plugged in on a South Bronx sidewalk and filled with fresh produce accessible to neighbors in need, this “free food fridge” is helping to redefine access to food. Close-by, 24/7, and anonymous, it provides thousands of pounds of food every week to South Bronxites that pantries never reached. (It even got covered on CNN!)

Now, that single fridge on 141st between St Anns and Crimmins has grown into a distribution network. Anybody can participate and those involved find themselves a part of a family of volunteers, coordinators, and community members who uplift and inspire. Every Saturday, neighbors with big cars and bigger hearts stop by 1927 Turnbull Avenue in Castle Hill to pick up fresh produce donated from the Hunts Point Produce Market and drive it to 20+ community hubs throughout the city. New Yorkers who want to help join the team on Saturday mornings to unload, sort, and bag produce.

Burroughs Lamar is a self-taught documentary photographer.His serious photography began in 2008, through his ongoing project documenting African American life in his native born Harlem community in the context of gentrification.His interest in the human condition arises from his career in behavioral health, specifically forensic psychiatry, working with his clients, Psychiatrists, Therapists and Social Workers in the treatment of major psychiatric disorders.

With an acute understanding of mental disorders, most occur genetically, other factors include substance use, but most relevant to his photography, through life stressors.Community activism, social protests provide people with a valve to release tension and gain a sense of empowerment against forces of oppression.

I learned of the Mott Haven Fridge organization from a posting on a website seeking photographers to volunteer their services.The need was to photograph its food distribution event in the South Bronx.As a New Yorker, living in Harlem which abuts its proximity, I venture to the Borough often, and thus I am keenly aware about poverty in theSouth Bronx.A Google search revealed the South Bronx,which constitutes Congressional District 16, is thepoorestcongressional district in the country, where thepoverty rateis 36.9% and the severepoverty rateis 16.6%.

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