Vegan food fridges and plant-based deli options are coming to at least 20 bodegas (independently owned corner stores) across New York City by the end of the year thanks to new project Plantega. Founded with the mission of bringing vegan food to areas where it is hard to find, Plantega launched a 12-week pilot program in November 2020 at three 24-hour bodegas where it filled fridges with more than 30 vegan products from cheese alternatives to deli meats and more. The expansion of the Plantega concept is supported by big brands Eat Just, Miyoko’s Creamery, Good Catch, Tofurky, Follow Your Heart, and Ben & Jerry’s—which will join the mission in supporting community empowerment initiatives along with stocking its non-dairy flavors in the Plantega fridges. 

Along with fridges filled with vegan products, the concept features a food service component. The  Plantega Grill Menu (offered at select deli counters) features vegan versions of prepared NYC breakfast staples such as a Chopped Cheese; Sausage, Egg, and Cheese; and Deli Slice Sandwich, all made with ingredients available in Plantega’s fridges. 

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“We’re honored to partner with Plantega as part of our combined goal to reinvent the food system and improve access to nutritious options that benefit the health of all living beings and the planet,” Miyoko Schinner, founder and CEO of Miyoko’s Creamery, said. “For years, I’ve said that when we bring people to the table, they’ll experience how delicious vegan food can be and will come back for more. Plantega is a ground-breaking program in helping to realize this goal of bringing plant-based foods to all and we’re delighted offerings will include our butters and cheeses made from real plant milks.”

Empowering communities through vegan food

The overarching mission of Plantega—which was established by social change incubator EFFECT Partners—is to eliminate barriers around vegan food such as price and accessibility by offering plant-based versions of familiar items in convenient spaces. The Plantega collective is comprised of NYC native and entrepreneur Erick Castro (who is also behind the @HowToBeVeganInTheHood Instagram account); Brooklyn-based Nil Zacharias, author and podcaster at Eat For The Planet; entrepreneur and eco-hip hop pioneer D.J. Cavem; and vegan graphic design shop Parfait Studio. 

“For too long, the sustainable food movement has felt out of reach and culturally out of context for a large number of New Yorkers. Plantega is on a mission to change that,” Zacharias said. “We use a unique community-powered food systems model that blends the latest food innovations with decentralized, local distribution. We partner with the city’s iconic independent bodegas using a turnkey solution that showcases delicious, high-quality, plant-based brands in formats that feel familiar and accessible to everyone. And we deploy community-led outreach efforts to build awareness and engagement locally.” 

Vegan fridges across the boroughs

Zacharias and Castro will be leading the expansion efforts, which have thus far resulted in a total of seven bodegas with a Plantega component in four out of the five boroughs: 

  • Brooklyn: Marinello’s Gourmet Deli and Don Poli Meat Market
  • Manhattan: 3rd Ave Deli and Grocery, Silver Moon Deli, and 181 Gourmet Deli
  • Queens: Sammy Gourmet Deli
  • Bronx: “My Deli” 

Plantega aims to double its locations by mid-summer 2021 and plans to add additional vegan products to its offerings through a partnership with local distributor Ace Natural. The project is also working with local chefs, farmers, and community members to bring additional offerings to bodegas. “Plantega is an all-round ‘win-win’ proposition for plant-based brands, local businesses, and New Yorkers who are hungry for better food choices at their local bodega,” Zacharias said.

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