A Long Island food pantry opened a new satellite location in Bethpage on Monday in response to increased demand since the pandemic began, the organization announced Monday.
"We've seen a tremendous increase and have met that increase head on by being able to increase the amount of food that we distribute," said Jessica Rosati, chief program officer for Long Island Cares Inc. "We opened Bethpage in an effort to get more food out to the network in that area."
The organization said in a news conference last week that 109,764 people between March and August used their emergency food network for the very first time. Group officials said they purchased 9.4 million pounds of food between March and August, up 38% from 6.8 million pounds in the same period last year.
Hauppauge-based Long Island Cares operates other satellite locations across the Island, and throughout the pandemic also has distributed food from 18 pop-up sites in Nassau and Suffolk counties. The Bethpage location, at 386 N. Wantagh Ave., is its second satellite location in Nassau County.
Rosati said the Bethpage site has been set up to look more like a supermarket where people can choose from among different options for their food rather than being given a prepackaged box. The food sits behind plastic glass and a staff member or volunteer takes the order from the client. The box is then packed by a volunteer.
"We've once again been able to establish the rapport with clients that I think have been lost for the past couple of months," Rosati said. Since the lockdowns of the spring have relaxed a little bit, "we've been able to create an environment that allows that dialogue to happen again."
Rosati said the food provided still is nutritionally balanced but now they can respond to say a family’s preference for apple juice over grape juice.
Anyone can use the pantry once a month and receive food to last three to seven days, she said. People who need additional food will be referred to other food banks, she said.