Getting Fresh Local Food To Those In Need

Amagansett Food Institute has partnered with Long Island Cares, the island’s biggest food bank and a leader in the fight against hunger.

Last winter Edible reported on a farm-to-food-pantry program started by the late Springs resident Eileen Roaman. We’re glad to say the bug has spread. This fall, Amagansett Food Institute, a nonprofit for the promotion of agriculture, has partnered with Long Island Cares, the island’s biggest food bank and a leader in the fight against hunger. Together they are helping farmers get bulk food to the hungry, thus mitigating the effects of the diminishing traffic at farm stands in the off-season and the lack of fresh produce many food pantries find hard to include on their budgets.

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“Long Island Cares exists not only to help feed the hungry, but to help find the root cause,” says Peter Braglia, the nonprofit’s food buyer. “If economics is a key factor, why purchase product elsewhere when it is available here?”

The number of farms participating in the Farm to Pantry program is growing because the program isn’t just doing good, it helps the farmers do well. “We were able to give one small farm a check for $3,000,” says Kathleen Masters, executive director of AFI. “Which is a big number for them for produce that otherwise would have gone to waste.”

Holly Wheaton, who has volunteered at the Springs Food Pantry for six years, has seen the shift from providing only canned goods to adding fresh fruits and vegetables. “We started with just individuals bringing overflow from their gardens,” she says. “Then the farms joined in. There’s a huge difference in how the bags look and how they’re presented when they have greens overflowing from the top.”

The produce that shows up at the Springs Food Pantry comes from a variety of places, but there’s one very unique farm involved. Food Pantry Farm, a 5-acre parcel at EECO Farm in East Hampton, was started by former Wall Street businessman John Malafronte solely to provide fresh produce to people in need. “We’ve donated about 22,000 pounds of fresh produce this year alone,” says Malafronte. “And it’s the most joyful thing I’ve done.”

CORRECTION: Food Pantry Farm was started by Peter Garnham. John Malafronte is an active volunteer.

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Emily Weitz is a freelance writer who pursues her idea of robust living from her home in Sag Harbor.