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Kings Park Farmers Market helps pay it forward with food donations

Jon Sujecki, from Sujecki Farms in Calverton, organizes

Jon Sujecki, from Sujecki Farms in Calverton, organizes produce Sunday, July 5, 2015, at a stand at the Kings Park Farmers Market. Credit: Steve Pfost

At the Kings Park Farmers Market, where the summer brings a bounty of fresh produce such as sweet corn, heirloom tomatoes, cucumbers and more, the season's best is made available to all who need it through a biweekly donation program.

Since its inception in 2010, the Kings Park Farmers Market has donated fresh produce every summer to the St. Vincent de Paul Society food pantry. This year's donation program resumed Sunday, and will operate every other week. The market is open each Sunday through Nov. 22.

Patrons can stock up on items such as local seafood and homemade ravioli, and also pay it forward by dropping off nonperishable goods or purchasing produce to donate. At closing time, market vendors have the option of donating their leftover products. For Jon Sujecki, owner of Calverton-based Sujecki Farm, this is a no-brainer.

"Everything you're not going to sell might as well be given to somebody who could use it," said Sujecki, 29, who estimates that he donates between 30 and 50 pounds of produce weekly.

Debora Staiano, manager of both the Long Beach and Kings Park farmers markets, said the community response has been positive. "Everyone's been very supportive," Staiano, 45, said. "We think it's very important to go to bed with a full belly."

The Kings Park Farmers Market is a partnership between the LI Greenmarket and the Kings Park Civic Association. Aly Elish-Swartz, a member of the civic association and co-founder of the Farmers Market, said community-building is a major initiative.

"So much of the market is about supporting local vendors and giving back to the community," Elish-Swartz said. "People are so thrilled to be there and develop real friendships with the farmers."

Elish-Swartz estimated at least a thousand pounds of produce have been donated during the past five years. The pantry helps more than 75 households and 175 people monthly, said Janet McCabe, 72, St. Vincent de Paul vice president. Farmers market goods are distributed to clients on Mondays, between 1 and 3 p.m. The pantry also is open on Wednesdays.

McCabe said clients are very excited for the farmers market season and that the produce donations are a big help. "There's something about it that is more enjoyable than taking food out of a can or from a frozen package," McCabe said.

Residents Sunday lined up to purchase freshly picked leafy kale and beets from stands like Fink's Country Farm of Wading River. The third-generation family-owned farm's stand was staffed by Donald Fink, 62, and his daughter Emily, 16, who said they'd donate their surplus at the end of the day.

"We like to put a smile on people's faces," Emily Fink said.

The farmers market is at the municipal lot on Route 25A and Main Street, across from the fire department.

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