Food pantry partnership uses the ‘client choice’ model to create the grocery experience for the needy at North Fork

Two Southold pantries have combined their efforts to create a grocery-style pantry designed to give customers more choice in how they eat, and help both organizations better serve those in need on the North Fork.

The newly renamed Southold Center for Advocacy, Support and Transformation, or Southold CAST, has partnered with North Fork United Methodist Church to offer “client-choice” dining in the new CAST headquarters on Main Road, the site of the former Southold Opera House.

Cathy Demeroto, CEO of CAST, told Newsday that the nonprofit organization had been looking to create the pantry since before it moved in September. “Customer choice” refers to the ability of a pantry to give those it serves the opportunity to choose their own food instead of receiving pre-packaged or standard groceries.

“Instead of just coming up and giving them a bag of goods that we think they want and need, we will be able to let customers in, and that enables us to serve customers with dignity and respect their preferences and dietary restrictions, while avoiding food waste, “said Demeroto. “Sometimes it’s hard for people to come in and ask for help, and this way they came in, and it’s really like a shopping experience in a store.”

No appointment is required. The dining room will be open from 9 a.m. to noon Monday and Friday, and from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Tuesdays. Southold CAST will continue to operate its mobile pantry for residents who have transportation problems or are homemakers. Greenport residents will be served every Tuesday from a satellite location at Holy Trinity Church.

Before CAST moved to its new location, Tom MacLeod, the now retired pastor of North Fork United Methodist Church, contacted the nonprofit organization to work together as the church’s pantry was smaller and had fewer volunteers compared to CAST.

The church’s now closed pantry, The Lord’s Cupboard in the Feather Hill Shopping Center along Main Road, served more than 50,000 people during its 20-year existence, according to MacLeod.

Ken Bohler, the church’s new pastor, said that with the high monthly cost to the church for operating the pantry, and its location being quite close to the opera house, it made sense for the North Fork United Methodist to partner with CAST so they could both better serve people in need.

While noting that people had a “heavy heart” regarding closing the pantry, Bohler said the merger is a “win-win” for the church and CAST, as it would help the church redirect money to other needs in its congregation while helping CAST offer them it serves several options in terms of what they eat.

CAST will operate the pantry and the church will provide some equipment and food supplies as well as church volunteers to help.

Representatives of both groups noted the growing need for pantries since last year – with CAST officials expecting greater needs this winter due to many, the nonprofit organization earns seasonal jobs – and said the opening of the pantry has been timely.

“I think we are clearly strong in representing and helping people in this community by participating in this special effort, rather than recreating the wheel when we’re really just trying to make society a better place to live, “MacLeod said.

SHOPPING IN GROCERY

  • The customer’s choice pantry is in the headquarters of Southold CAST, 53930 Main Rd., Former location of Southold Opera House.
  • Prior to merging its now-closed pantry, The Lord’s Cupboard, with CAST, North Fork United Methodist Church used the client’s choice model to serve the needy.

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