Sara Allen and Selma Raven: Helping feed NYC


Distributing and sorting under tents in the rain is a symbol of The Friendly Fridge Foundation’s drive to fight food insecurity.


What You Need To Know

  • Selma Raven and Sara Allen started a community fridge in May 2020, inspired by the memory of Raven’s hunger advocate son
  • Their team of volunteers feed 1,800 people a week
  • The food is mostly from local organizations and businesses that would have tossed it in the trash. The Friendly Fridge rescues 60,000 pounds of food each month

“We still are hungry in the rain, so we’d love to cancel on rainy days,” said Selma Raven, a co-founder of the nonprofit organization. “We’ve tried that, but we’ve had a real need here.”

Raven and Sara Allen are at the helm. The group runs a community fridge off the Broadway side of Van Cortlandt Park and holds several food distributions a week.

“You have access to healthy food, not at a price that would cost you an arm and a leg,” Allen said.

The Riverdale couple got the idea from a similar effort in Harlem in May 2020. It was the anniversary of the death of Raven’s son, Michael.

They wanted to honor his passion for healthy food access in the Bronx.

“It was a day where we usually just chill out and don’t do much but, um, so it really felt like fate,” Raven said.

They started with a fridge they bought off Craigslist.

“There was so much food coming in and going out,” Allen said.

Now, the Friendly Fridge Foundation feeds more than 1,800 people a week. Most of the food is redirected — donations from local schools and businesses would have otherwise thrown out.

The Friendly Fridge team moves more than 60,000 pounds of food a month.

There were hurdles along the way. Someone vandalized the fridge last year.

They later outgrew their original space because there was such a big demand.

Still, their dedicated volunteers show up week after week.

“Look at, look around you and see all the people who come forward to just work together,” Raven said.

“You’re able to save money in other ways that can pay bills,” Allen said. “That can help you literally survive from week to week.”

For creating a place to feed people in need, Sara Allen and Selma Raven are our New Yorkers of the Week.



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