“No one in the Hamptons should be hungry,” reads the banner on the homepage of the East Hampton Food Pantry’s website. Working in conjunction with other pantries across the Town of East Hampton, the charitable organization, which was founded in 1989, is stepping up its efforts to feed the hungry at a time of year it normally throttles down that operation.
“In March of last year, we served 1200 people. This year, 1800,” Vicki Littman, chairperson of the charity’s board of directors, said on April 7 as she helped distribute bags of groceries to the occupants in the line of cars pulling up to the tent.
The food pantry sets the tent up at the Town of East Hampton government’s complex at 159 Pantigo Road. To get to the distribution center, you drive past the town’s justice court and the communication tower, then make a left. The distribution center operates from 1 to 6 PM every other Tuesday.
The demand keeps growing.
“Normally, in April, our numbers start decreasing,” Littman said. “We had over 50 new families last month.”
On April 7, the bags for those in need included “bread, milk, eggs . . . and we have toilet paper today,” Littman said about that astonishingly scarce commodity. Each client also gets their fair share of bagels and flagels. “Goldberg’s donates them every Tuesday,” she said. The food pantry was also distributing whole chickens to families, in recognition of the holiday season.
Some of the food and supplies distributed are obtained through direct donations. Much of it, though, is purchased by the pantry.
On alternate Tuesdays, when the East Hampton Food Pantry is closed, the Wainscott and Montauk pantries are open, allowing those in need to get food and supplies every week.
“We serve all of East Hampton,”Littman said, “from Montauk to Wainscott.”
The food the pantries provide enables those in need to marshal scarce dollars.
“This pandemic has laid off so many people,” Littman said. “If we can give two or three days’ worth of food that helps them pay for their rent or their light or phone bill.”
Littman is a lifelong resident who has been on the East Hampton Food Pantry’s board for 12 years, serving as its chair the last five. She began working with the pantry when she realized there were many school children in the town who did not have enough food to eat on a daily basis.
“A lot of people, second-home owners who come out for the summer, they see the glamorous side of the Hamptons, the celebrities,” she noted. To Littman, the true celebrities are the residents of and visitors to East Hampton who make donations to help those in need.
Last March, Ladles of Love, an event that benefited the food pantry, raised $14,000. That event had to be cancelled this year, as did other fundraisers.
Littman said donations can be made by sending a check to East Hampton Food Pantry, P.O. Box 505, East Hampton, NY, 11937, or through the pantry’s website at www.easthamptonfoodpantry.org.
The forced closure of businesses due to the current COVID-19 pandemic has cut a wide swath across the East Hampton community.
“We are having donors now who are our clients. There is nothing to be embarrassed about. We are here to help everyone,” Littman said. “We live in a very special community. When someone is in need, we are here to help them, regardless. If you need help, please come. That is why we are here.”
Those in need are encouraged to call 631-324-2300 to sign up.
Darius Narizzano, a member of the pantry’s board, was helping guide traffic April 7. When asked why he volunteers, he said, “Because I can.”
“We are going to get through this together,” Littman said.