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Brief Published: 8 Dec 2020

Vegan Food Fridges Democratise Access via NYC Bodegas


Vegan food should be accessible to everyone. That’s the mission driving Plantega, a new initiative that installs fridges filled with high-quality plant-based foods at bodegas in New York City’s food deserts. It’s a shrewd move to democratise access to veganism while normalising plant-based eating patterns.

Plantega is the brainchild of Minneapolis-based social justice incubator Effect Partners and aims to address the inequitable distribution of healthy food in NYC’s food deserts. The fridges stock about 30 plant-based brands that provide alternatives to the processed foods frequently found in grocery stores. These include vegan cheese from California brand Miyoko’s Creamery, plant-based seafood from Pennsylvania company Good Catch and alt-meat from US brand Beyond Meat.

Each deli also offers made-to-order foods, such as breakfast sandwiches, prepared with the ingredients that Plantega stocks. The coolers feature QR codes that curious shoppers can scan to find answers to common questions about veganism and recipes using the products inside.

“These bodegas are our lifeline, the gateway to food for so many, from nurses on the run to late-night needs,” said Erick Castro, Plantega co-founder and operator of Instagram account How to Be Vegan in the Hood. “We are here to learn, but also to show how delicious, healthy and affordable eating plant-based really is,” he added. 

While the concept’s launch is NYC-specific, the imperative to democratise access to healthy foods has wider relevance. Despite veganism’s pandemic-driven popularity surge, cost and access remain prohibiting factors for many communities in adopting these alternatives. Concepts like Plantega could help to introduce shoppers to plant-based foods and to normalise their consumption in communities where veganism is less common.

For more on how to make food trends culturally relevant, see Diversifying Food Narratives.