Community leaders are banding together to raise funds to address food insecurity on the East End.
Citing a rapidly-growing economic crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a coalition of food pantry directors has joined with local elected officials, clergy, and business leaders to launch a broad appeal for donations to food distribution agencies that are already seeing a rapid increase in the number of individuals seeking assistance. The group has named the campaign Feed the Need. All donations are tax-deductible and go directly to local food pantries according to need.
The idea originated when Bridgehampton resident Dan Shedrick reached out to Southampton Supervisor Jay Schneiderman with a question about how to help the local workforce cope with the economic crisis.
“There is a humanitarian crisis,” Shedrick said. “Seventy-five percent of working Americans have been financially hurt during this pandemic. People want to help, but they don’t know how best to help.”
The fundamental problem, according to Schneiderman, is that the compromised workforce is spread throughout the East End region.
“If our goal is to help the local workforce, we need to think regionally,” Schneiderman said. “We need an East End fundraising appeal.”
The supervisor reached out to other community leaders to get the ball rolling. State Assemblyman Fred Thiele was one of the first on board, and suggested using an existing foundation headed All for the East End as an umbrella agency to direct funds on the local level. The not-for-profit, founded in 2013 by Claudia Pilato, who was looking increase resources to nonprofits on the East End, was a perfect vehicle to launch the Feed the Need campaign.
“Feed the Need expects to raise significant funds to support the escalating needs of our food pantries to alleviate food insecurity in our local community,” Pilato said. “The goal is to quickly and efficiently get money where it is needed most.”
The team is assembling a board of directors consisting of local clergy, advocates of minority populations, leaders from the agriculture and fishing industries, and philanthropists. An advisory committee of food pantry representatives will help guide the group’s relief efforts. Fundraising targets are being set and a large-scale marketing plan developed.
Through the organization, donors can link directly and donate to specific food pantries or give through All for the East End, selecting the East End, South Fork, or North Fork. Hilton Crosby, director of Heart of the Hamptons, the largest food pantry in the Town of Southampton, quickly joined the effort and work began in earnest.
“During this coronavirus crisis, we are seeing more and more families turning to food pantries for assistance,” Crosby said. “We are so busy distributing food that it will be helpful to have a fundraising arm like Feed the Need to help generate funds to expand our operations.”
Heart of the Hamptons is working out of the basement of a church, but is looking to expand into a more permanent ground-level facility.
“Food insecurity is one of our biggest concerns as we continue to experience economic disruption on the East End due to COVID-19,” Thiele said. “The impact to our service industries is particularly severe. The Feed the Need campaign marshals the resources of both our seasonal and year-round community to ensure no person goes hungry. We are all in this together. Together, we can help our food pantries do what they could not do individually.”
For more information or to donate, visit www.aftee.org.