The pilot program that paired Quail Hill Farm with the food pantry at the Bridgehampton Child Care and Recreation Center worked so well last year that, thanks to a grant from All For the East End and the Long Island Community Foundation, it will continue this year.
“Things just fit very well between the organizations,” BHCCRC Executive Director Bonnie Michelle Cannon enthused. “We piggybacked off each other.”
The program, called Farm to Food Pantry, paired the center with Quail Hill to provide fresh, locally grown produce to those encountering health and economic challenges as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
“There’s definitely a need,” Ms. Cannon said. Before the pandemic, the center’s pantry operated once a month and served about 70 people. Since the coronavirus crisis landed last year, the need surged. By the end of 2020, the center’s food pantry was serving 700 or more people per week, she said.
Located in Amagansett on land donated to the Peconic Land Trust, Quail Hill Farm will provide fresh produce to the center for 25 weeks, beginning this coming May. It’s estimated the program costs about $65,000. AFTEE and LICF will provide $25,000, with Peconic Land Trust and Quail Hill Farm donors offering the balance of the support.
Before the Farm to Food Pantry program, the center was able to collect and distribute only a limited volume of fresh produce. In 2020, Quail Hill farmers picked, packed, and delivered over 22,000 pounds of vegetables to BHCCRC — usually all in the same day, which is key to ensuring peak nutritiousness, Ms. Cannon reported. “Among many other crops, they delivered over 1,500 bunches of collard greens and kale, 2,000 pounds of tomatoes, and 1,000 pounds each of sweet peppers, potatoes, winter squash and sweet potatoes,” she said, expressing gratitude for the program.
The next step, Ms. Cannon explained, involved a nutrition education component offered by the center. To promote the concept of eating healthily, the center provided cookbooks and even Instagram live sessions demonstrating how to cook vegetables community members may not have tried before, like spaghetti squash. “I can’t tell you how many times my mom was on the phone, telling somebody how to cook different things,” Ms. Cannon said.
A $5,000 donation from a Quail Hill Farm member provided the seed money for the program early last year. Peconic Land Trust and farm staff reached out to the center about the potential for a collaboration and the partnership took root.
The AFTEE grant covered the first year of the program. Formed in 2012, AFTEE, an umbrella organization which works to provide funding for nonprofits, reignited last year in response to the pandemic. In less than one month’s time, it had raised $450,000. Its Feed the Need Campaign is currently addressing issues of food instability and other concerns raised by the pandemic. The AFTEE grant advisory committee includes one member from each of the five East End towns
“We hope the Quail Hill/BHCCRC program will serve as a model of what can be achieved when we work together and think creatively. By funding this program, we are both supporting local farming and helping those who experience food instability. There is nothing better than locally grown, fresh produce and sharing that harvest with those who really need it. We are proud to be part of the team that is making this partnership possible,” AFTEE Board President Claudia Pilato said in a statement announcing the grant award.
“The coronavirus pandemic has exponentially increased the number of individuals and families in our local community who are in need of basic essentials such as food,” said David Okorn, the executive director of the Long Island Community Foundation. “During the height of the pandemic, the Quail Hill Farm Food to Pantry program demonstrated its ability to provide an abundance of fresh, healthy and nutritious vegetables that are required for a balanced diet. As such, we are proud to once again provide funding to support this initiative serving our neighbors in need.” LICF partners with AFTEE to manage the grant process to ensure transparency and administers the fund disbursements.
While the pandemic has had a terrible impact on the community, “it also showed just how strong, generous and compassionate our community is,” said Peconic Land Trust President John v.H. Halsey. “I am heartened every day by what we can do as a community when we work together for the greater good.”
Layton Guenther, the director of Quail Hill Farm, also made note of the common good, and the common goal of the farm and the child care center: “To support and uplift members of our East End community through programming that nourishes mind, body and soul.”
“As farmers, we are proud to carry this relationship forward into a new growing season,” Guenther said.