A new concept, Plantega, recently launched vegan fridges inside of three 24-hour bodegas (corner stores) in New York City, namely in areas where plant-based foods are otherwise difficult to find. The three Plantega fridges (located in bodegas in Bushwick, Cypress Hills, and The Bronx) will run for a 12-week pilot program and if the concept proves successful, will be expanded to serve other communities. The fridges are filled with more than 30 vegan products made by brands such as Miyoko’s Creamery, Beyond Meat, Eat Just (makers of JUST Egg), vegan seafood brand Good Catch, and more. At the counters of the Bushwick and The Bronx bodegas, customers will also be able to order prepared items made with Plantega’s offerings such as breakfast sandwiches featuring Beyond Meat and JUST Egg. 

Plantega was created by a collective of mission-driven food advocates in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the social-justice uprisings with the mission of making plant-based foods accessible to underserved communities. Established by Minneapolis-based social change incubator EFFECT Partners, the 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.

“Bringing these plant-based products to my hometown and surrounding neighborhoods is a tremendous opportunity at just the right time. These bodega’s are our lifeline, the gateway to food for so many, from nurses on the run to late night needs,” Castro, who is leading the Plantega team, said. “We are here to learn, but also to show how delicious, healthy, and affordable eating plant-based really is.”

The team was motivated to create the Plantega project to close the gap of accessibility to plant-based products, particularly among communities of color. A recent Yale study found that more than half of American consumers want to incorporate plant-based alternatives to meat, cheese, and eggs but 53 percent do not know what to buy and 71 percent of low-income households perceived these foods to be more expensive than animal products. The Plantega fridges are also equipped with QR quotes and SMS texting to assist customers in finding plant-based recipes and learning about the benefits of ditching animal products. Throughout the trial period, the Plantega project will run special promotions to help customers choose and maintain a plant-based lifestyle on a budget. 

“Good food is the medicine we all need right now,” Andrew Arrieta, a Plantega director from EFFECT Partners who grew up not far from one of the participating bodegas, said. “Throughout the course of this summer, our team of food fighters challenged ourselves to help find better, healthier solutions that could benefit the most people. Like so many of our friends in the plant-based movement, we’ve been staring at this same data about taste and access for too long—we finally decided it was time to get some friends together and go do something about it.”

Exact locations of the Plantega coolers can be found here.

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