Long Island Cares opened a supermarket-style "boutique" of essentials in Bethpage on Monday aimed at reducing the stigma of going to a food pantry.
Located at 386 North Wantagh Ave., the "Essential Market" has aisles full of nonperishable and perishable goods, along with cooking demonstrations for people who pick up food and community rooms available for organizations in Hempstead Town and Nassau County, officials said.
"The essential market is an opportunity for us to tell the public who is food insecure and in need of support that you don’t have to be ashamed to go for help," Paule Pachter, CEO of Long Island Cares, said at the opening.
The items come from stores such as Target and Costco as part of a retail rescue program to provide food to the public.
The Bethpage location, which Long Island Cares calls a "boutique market," is the seventh site on Long Island. An eighth location is due to open in Hauppauge in a few weeks, Pachter said.
Long Island Cares has opened several distribution centers since the coronavirus pandemic began in 2020.
Speaking at the opening, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said helping secure food for people in need has been a mission for the county since the pandemic started.
"I think something that the COVID pandemic really showed everyone is that we’re just one step away, so many of our residents are just one step away from not being able to get a good meal, from not being able to feed their families," Curran said.
Food insecurity on the Island has increased since the pandemic began. Island Harvest and Long Island Cares in 2020 saw demand rise by 72% and 83% from 2019.
Later this month, both food banks, through a new state initiative, will share $1.6 million to buy restaurant meals to feed those in need and help local restaurants.
Helping people in need is "not a one-year or two-year commitment," said Hempstead Town Supervisor Don Clavin.
"This has to be a long-term commitment by all municipalities for residents with businesses and chambers of commerce to work with Long Island Cares," Clavin said.
with Barry Sloan