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Organizers of Hell’s Kitchen Community Cupboard — a neighborhood mutual aid food pantry — are seeking local assistance as they work to restore the cabinet after the structure was vandalized on 10th Avenue.
“The Hell’s Kitchen Community Cupboard is in a sad state at the moment — somebody came in late last night, pushed it over on its side, and took the doors and the shelves from the cabinet. We currently have nowhere to put our food and we’re going to have to put all of our donations on hold until we can get another cabinet up and running,” said volunteer Tiff, who was at the site to coordinate the rearranging of local distributions to nearby St Clements Pantry on W46th Street between 9th and 10th Avenue and The Chelsea Fridge on W15th Street between 5th and 6th Avenue.
The food share — founded in 2021 by neighborhood residents looking to reduce food waste and food insecurity in Hell’s Kitchen — is a beacon of community food exchange as well as the site of donations from local restaurants and bakeries like 43 Fruit Stand, Amy’s Bread, Citi Deli, Stony Hill Farms, Sullivan Street Bakery, and the West Side Campaign Against Hunger hoping to keep surplus food in Midtown West. Organizers recently began the search for a secondary location to host a fridge, which would allow the group to rescue and offer more kinds of foods, including meat and dairy as well as prepared meals.
Surveillance footage shows a man arriving in a van late last night (Tuesday) and pulling the cupboard over before lifting off the doors and removing the shelves. He then drove off along 10th Avenue. There was no food in the cupboard at that time.
Organizers emphasized that there haven’t been prior issues with vandalism at the food share: “We really get a lot of support from the people in the community. I’ve been here a few times when someone was getting a little pushy and usually one of the community members will step in and say, ‘Hey, give her a chance to put the bread away’,” said Tiff.
“We would appreciate the community’s help to get the cupboard up and running as soon as possible,” said fellow organizer Shruthi Velidi, as she appealed to locals to help volunteers get the cabinet back in working order. “In addition to monetary donations (@hkfridge on Venmo/CashApp/PayPal), we need more volunteers! We have a ton of opportunities that only take an hour of time, ranging from donation pickup by foot or car, helping to be stewards of the cupboard to greet and staff big distributions, helping with new cupboard decorations (artists please reach out!), and ongoing maintenance,” she added.
Velidi added that there is an immediate need for volunteers at their weekly Friday afternoon distribution, which will still take place this week at 12:30pm at the 10th Avenue location between W45/46th Streets. The group has already secured a new cupboard and invites volunteers to join them in decorating the structure in addition to the distribution.
Tiff stressed the importance of quickly rebuilding the food share structure, which has served as a vital mutual aid resource for food distribution in Midtown West over the pandemic: “We’ve built a big community of people that come regularly to get food on different days of the week, and we’re going to have to put all those donations on hold for right now. We also rescue food from a lot of the community restaurants and bakeries,” she said.
“Because of this, people who could really benefit from the donated food are going to be hungrier; including children and elders,” said local resident Renee Lutz Stanley. “Such a sad thing to happen to such a wonderful neighborhood effort to help others.”