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Little Free Food Pantries Fill Big Need

Thu, 06/23/2022 - 11:00

The Little Free Food Pantries maintained by the Neo-Political Cowgirls in Montauk, Amagansett, East Hampton, and Sag Harbor have been used steadily “from the get-go,” said Kate Mueth, founder of the not-for-profit dance theater company, “but we can’t keep them filled.”

Not unlike a Little Free Library, a Little Free Food Pantry is a place where people can give or take canned goods and other nonperishable food as needed.

Traffic at the tiny pantries demonstrates the degree of food insecurity in the town, Ms. Mueth said this week, following a food drive on Saturday at East Hampton Town’s senior citizens center on Springs-Fireplace Road to stock the pantry the Neo-Political Cowgirls and its January Girls workshop established in the center’s parking lot.

The expectation was that use of the Little Free Food Pantries would lessen in the summer, when job opportunities are more plentiful, but “it’s gotten progressively worse and worse. We cannot keep up with it. There’s a flood of need,” Ms. Mueth said.

The group’s other Little Free Food Pantries are in the parking lot at the Montauk School, next to the Sunshine Amagansett boutique, at Most Holy Trinity Catholic Church in East Hampton, and outside Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor.

In an April email to the town board, Ms. Mueth said that “We are in a dire situation, it appears, as hunger goes. We have seen a heavy uptick in usage of these little pantries in the past five months, and that’s on top of their already much-trafficked existence prior since their being erected. We are connected with the big pantries, but they really are doing so much already and we are just connecting the dots between the days when folks can receive from the pantries.

On Monday, Ms. Mueth likened the statistics regarding the percentage of income many residents spend on housing, issued during the board’s June 14 work session, to food insecurity in the town. During that presentation, Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc worried aloud about a community “unraveling” if those who provide essential services are unable to live in the town because of an ever-rising cost of housing. “That is exactly how this feels on the food front, too,” she said.

The little free food pantries “are really meant to destigmatize need and hunger,” Ms. Mueth said. The pantries “are small and meant to be. Take what you need for today; tomorrow it will be here and there will be more. We’re trying to reduce panic.”

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