A New-York-based project Plantega plans to bring vegan food fridges and plant-based deli options to at least 20 bodegas across New York City this year. Plantega initially began this mission with a 12-week pilot program in November 2020 that set up three vegan fridges at 24-hour bodegas. The organization stocked the fridges with more than 30 different vegan products, providing everything from dairy-free products to meat alternatives.

Plantega’s mission centers around bringing vegan food to areas that have low access to plant-based products. For many across New York City, the options for vegan food are extremely minimal, making a plant-based diet seem unachievable. Plantega plans to tackle this issue, teaming up with Eat Just, Miyoko’s Creamery, Ben & Jerry’s, and more to increase the city’s access to plant-based foods.

“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,” CEO of Miyoko’s Creamery Miyoko Schinner 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 butter and cheeses made from real plant-milks.”

Plantega is also working on a Plantega Grill Menu that will offer vegan versions of classic NYC deli breakfasts. The foodservice project will offer Chopped Cheese; Sausage, Egg and Cheese; and Deli Slice Sandwich, sourced from ingredients that will be available in the vegan fridges.

The Plantega project emerged from the social change organization EFFECT Partners in an effort to combat food insecurity and enhance the availability of plant-based foods. Often vegan options are minimal in convenience stores, but by including the vegan fridges, Plantega hopes to change the general layout of food retailers in New York. The project is run by NYC entrepreneur Erick Castro, podcast host of Eat For The Planet Nil Zacharias, and eco-hip hop producer D.J. Cavem. The team is also joined by the 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,” Zacharias said. “Plantega is on a mission to change that. We use a unique community-powered food system 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.”

Currently, the vegan fridges have launched at seven locations across four boroughs. Plantega hopes to have twice that by this summer and plans to incorporate more brands in the fridges. The project also will team up with local chefs and farmers to engage the community with the fridge.

“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.

New Yorkers can find the community fridges in Brooklyn at Marinello’s Gourmet Deli and Don Poli Meat Market; in Manhattan at 3rd Ave Delia and Grocery, Silver Moon Deli, and 181 Gourmet Deli; in Queens at Sammy Gourmet Deli; and in the Bronx at “My Deli.” Soon, Plantega hopes to see nearly 20 fridges scattered across the boroughs, extending across the entire city and its communities.