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Local food pantries joining forces to combat hunger on the East End

Two North Fork food pantries became one Wednesday, creating a new client-choice pantry that resembles a small grocery store and provides a new way to combat hunger. 

The merger has combined The Lord’s Cupboard food pantry operated by North Fork United Methodist Church with the food pantry run by the newly renamed Center for Advocacy, Support and Transformation. 

Executive director Cathy Demeroto said this will be CAST’s first time using a client-choice model for its pantry, which will be located in the organization’s new home at the former Southold Opera House. 

“CAST has wanted to offer a client-choice pantry for several years and the new, larger space allows us to set up a client-choice pantry where clients can walk down the aisle and choose the items they want and need,” she said. “It enables us to serve clients with dignity, respecting their preferences while avoiding food waste.”

The merger had benefits for both parties. It helped CAST obtain much needed equipment, supplies and volunteers for its expanded food pantry and it relieved The Lord’s Cupboard, which has been client-choice from the beginning, of the financial burden of renting pantry space at Feather Hill. At the same time, it provides clients of the church pantry with a convenient alternative location .

This merger took shape around nine months ago, when former NFUMC pastor Tom MacLeod first made a call to speak with Ms. Demeroto about joining forces. 

“It made sense to merge with them,” Mr. MacLeod said. “I don’t think it makes sense to have competing for the same ministry in such close proximity.”

The Lord’s Cupboard has been a mission of North Fork United Methodist Church for at least 20 years, according to Sue Duffin, its director of five years. 

“It was a necessary decision,” she said.

As a part of its pantry expansion, Ms. Demeroto said, CAST will also create a Volunteers in Partnership — or V.I.P. — program through which it will partner with community, school and other faith-based groups like NFUMC to meet the community’s needs.

“We value collaboration with community partners and are grateful for their willingness to share their equipment and supplies to enhance the new CAST client-choice food pantry,” Ms. Demeroto said.

North Fork United Methodist Church will not assume any administrative or operational responsibilities with the food pantry, according to Mr. MacLeod, but will provide support going forward.

NFUMC’s current pastor, Ken Bohler, said, “We’re just there as volunteers to do what we can to provide for the community and that’s our bottom line goal, feed as many people as we can that need it and we feel this merger is going to do just that.” 

 Ms. Duffin, for one, plans to continue participating.

“I’m happy that they’re going to try client choice,” she said. “I intend to be involved, whether it’s, you know, to give them advice, or see how it works out.”

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