Pictured Above: The Springs Food Pantry has seen a 300 percent increase in demand for food this year. | Springs Food Pantry photo

Since the start of the pandemic in March, All For the East End (AFTEE) has raised more than $1 million and provided more than 60 grants to East End Food Pantries and other organizations addressing food instability.

But that is just a drop in the bucket of what will be needed to successfully navigate the second Covid wave.

At a mid-November AFTEE Community Advisory meeting, which brings together representatives from many of the local pantries, many leaders expressed grave concern about what the winter will bring and if the pantries will have the resources to address the need.

“Across the board, pantry leaders are preparing for another increase in demand. As seasonal workers lose their jobs, unemployment runs out and more positive Covid cases force people to quarantine, it will become increasingly difficult for families not only to have enough food in the house, but to pay the rent and utilities,” said Claudia Pilato, AFTEE Board President. “And, because a pantry is a trusted place to go for help, many of the more established organizations provide both food and emergency funds. All of the pantries are committed to finding ways to get help where it is needed.”

At CAST in Southold, its clients rely on the organization for assistance for both food and emergency support.   

“More clients are out of work and that means that while they need food, they also need support to pay their rent and other expenses like utilities,” says CAST Executive Director Cathy Demeroto. “Many donors are willing to provide funds to purchase food, but not for emergency assistance.  We have a small fund set aside, but that money is going fast.”

Hilton Crosby, Executive Director of Heart of the Hamptons in Southampton said his organization provided food for 65,000 meals in 2019.  This year his pantry is already at 163,000, with 810 new families added to the client roster. And requests for help continue to grow.  

“We are still doing the Polar Bear Plunge on Dec. 12, though it will be virtual,” said Mr. Crosby.  Go to www.heartofthehamptons.org to learn more.

According to Pamela Bicket, moderator of the Springs Pantry, visits to their pantry are up 300 percent over 2019, and while they have funds for food, the supply of necessary staples has been erratic.    

Tijuana Fulford, founder of the Butterfly Effect Project in Riverhead, is on the county call list when families are required to quarantine. 

“We are packing and delivering food to clients’ homes to encourage them to respect quarantine,” said Ms. Fulford.  “If they don’t work, their children don’t eat. At least we can alleviate their food concerns.”

“We are determined to help bridge the gap created by this pandemic,” said Ms. Pilato, AFTEE’s President. “It may be pandemic fatigue, but donations have dropped off significantly. But we know that this community is up to the challenge.” 

Donations are being accepted online at aftee.org.

Beth Young
Beth Young is an award-winning local journalist who has been covering the East End since the 1990s. She began her career at the Sag Harbor Express and, after receiving her Masters from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, has reported for the Southampton Press, the East Hampton Press and the Times/Review Media Group. She founded the East End Beacon website in 2013, and a print edition in 2017. Beth was born and raised on the North Fork. In her spare time, she tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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