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Food pantry partnership uses 'client choice' model to create grocery store experience for needy on North Fork

Southold CAST executive director Cathy Demeroto, from left,

Southold CAST executive director Cathy Demeroto, from left, food pantry manager Karina Hayes and Sue Duffin, former director of The Lord's Cupboard at North Fork United Methodist Church, in an aisle of the new client choice pantry on Main Street in Southold. Credit: Randee Daddona

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

The recently renamed Southold Center for Advocacy, Support and Transformation, or Southold CAST, has partnered with the North Fork United Methodist Church to offer the "client choice" pantry at the new headquarters of CAST on Main Road, site of the former Southold Opera House.

Cathy Demeroto, executive director of CAST, told Newsday that the nonprofit had sought to create the pantry since before it relocated in September. "Client choice" refers to a pantry’s ability to allow those it serves to select their own food instead of receiving pre-packed or standard groceries.

"Instead of us just coming up and us handing them a bag of items that we think they want and need, we’ll be able to let clients come in and it enables us to serve clients with dignity and respecting their preferences and dietary restrictions, while avoiding food waste," Demeroto said. "Sometimes, it’s hard for people to come in and ask for help, and this way, they’d come in and it’s truly like a shopping experience at a store."

No appointment is necessary. The pantry will be open from 9 a.m. to noon on Mondays and Fridays, and from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Tuesdays. Southold CAST will continue operating its mobile pantry for residents who have transportation issues or are homebound. Greenport residents will be served each 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 about collaborating since 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 over its 20-year existence, according to MacLeod.

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

While noting people had a "heavy heart" about closing the pantry, Bohler said the merger is a "win-win" for the church and CAST, as it would help the church redirect money for other needs of its congregation while helping CAST offer those it serves more options regarding 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 out.

Representatives of both groups noted the increased need since last year for food pantries — with CAST officials anticipating greater needs this winter due to many the nonprofit serves working seasonal jobs — and said the pantry’s opening has been timely.

"I think we’re definitely strong in representing and helping the people in this community by partnering in this particular effort, rather than re-create the wheel when we’re really just trying to make the community a better place to live," MacLeod said.

GROCERY-STYLE SHOPPING

  • The client choice pantry is at the headquarters of Southold CAST, 53930 Main Rd., former site of the Southold Opera House.
  • Before merging its now-shuttered pantry, The Lord’s Cupboard, with CAST, the North Fork United Methodist Church used the client choice model to serve the needy.

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