In 2013, East End Food Institute (then Amagansett Food Institute) launched a Farm to Food Pantry program in partnership with Long Island Cares. The goal of the program is to give farmers a wholesale outlet for their surplus produce while at the same time providing hungry Long Islanders with healthy food.
From 2013-2017, the Farm to Pantry program resulted in over 120,000 lbs of aggregated East End surplus produce purchased and distributed by Long Island Cares Harry Chapin Food Bank to 600 food pantries in Nassau and Suffolk Counties. In fall and winter, we also worked with local farms to deliver produce directly to local food pantries.
In 2015, we worked with New Venture Advisors to conduct a feasibility study of a food hub for the East End. The purpose of the study was to determine whether a food hub is a viable approach to increasing sales of local produce and helping North and South Fork farmers and food producers grow their businesses.
A food hub manages the aggregation, distribution, and marketing of source identified local food from different farms for sale to institutional and wholesale buyers. Food hubs are active in different places around the country and operate using a range of different models, including providing local food to schools, hospitals, and food pantries.
Given that many farms and food pantries have established direct relationships, East End Food Institute initiated a pilot project in 2018 to launch its new approach, called Farm to Community. The effort includes processing and freezing fresh produce. To extend the season and maximize impact, we were able to vacuum seal and freeze over 5,000 pounds of surplus produce from local farms that were donated to three local food pantries in Winter 2019.
In 2020, we built our capacity to do even more by purchasing a refrigerated van and adding distribution from our headquarters in Southampton. During the COVID-19 crisis, East End Food Institute partnered with local food pantries to address the surge in demand for emergency food. We partnered with local food pantries to prepare and distribute over 15,000 meals and more than 5,000 lbs of local seafood to community members in need during the early stages of the pandemic.
Using software and leveraging our ability to aggregate, process, and distribute local food, East End Food Institute continues to expand its Farm to Community program. We plan to reestablish some aggregation of fresh produce to streamline connections between farmers that have extra produce and food pantries looking to expand their offerings.