New Farm to Food Pantry Initiative Will Support Growing Need Due to COVID-19

Bonnie Cannon, the executive director of the Bridgehampton Child Care & Recreational Center, and Layton Guenther, director Quail Hill Farm, are working on the new program.

A pilot farm to food pantry program on the South Fork will provide fresh, locally-grown produce for those in need thanks to a new $25,000 grant with money raised during All For The East End’s Feed the Need Campaign.

The AFTEE grant, with help from Long Island Community Foundation (LICF), will underwrite the program to help those impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The food will be grown at the Peconic Land Trust’s Quail Hill Farm in Amagansett and end up on the plates of those getting food through the Bridgehampton Child Care & Recreational Center’s food pantry.

The Center, which has served families for 65 years, has an onsite food pantry that has grown from feeding 70 individuals per month to 450 individuals weekly during the pandemic, according to Bonnie Michelle Cannon, the executive director. The food pantry is run on the Center’s property, Tuesday through Friday afternoons by appointment.

“We are so excited about this unique community partnership,” Cannon said in a statement. “The need is great, and the heart of this community is rising to the occasion.”

The 18-week program will cost approximately $55,000. It got jumpstarted with a $5,000 donation, and the AFTEE grant will underwrite the first nine weeks, covering costs such as planting, harvesting, packaging and delivering the produce. The Peconic Land Trust is seeking to raise $25,000 more from private donors to cover another nine weeks.

The grant will allow Quail Hill Farm to provide produce to the Center at no cost. It is organic food that would have otherwise been sold to local restaurants.

“By digging deeper into this mission, we saw an opportunity to broaden our distribution while committing to food justice and racial equity in our local food system,” said Layton Guenther, the director at Quail Hill. “Furthermore, while most mixed-vegetable growers on the South Fork orient their production schedule around a narrow summertime marketing window, we are now able to extend that window considerably, while feeding local families. It’s a win-win.”

The Center will now be able to provide more food for more families and use money that had been used on fresh produce toward other items like meat, dairy, personal household goods and toiletries.

John V.H. Halsey, the president of the Peconic Land Trust, said the program happened very quickly and he said he was thankful to AFTEE and LICF for their willingness to think outside the box. The program serves as a model for other farms and organizations, he added.

AFTEE, a not-for-profit founded in 2012, that has raised $1 million in less than three months through events, like drive-in movies that raised money for the Feed the Need Campaign, in order to address food insecurity issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. More than half has been donated to food pantries and other organizations on the East End. The Long Island Community Foundation partners with AFTEE to manage the grant process.

“We are delighted to help this ambitious pilot program and we hope it serves as a model for other farms to participate in helping our pantries,” said Claudia Pilato, the AFTEE board president. “Our hope is that the Quail Hill Farm to pantry program will grow each year and it will be joined by other farms providing fresh local produce to those who do not have easy access to healthy food.”

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