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Long Island Cares holds farmers market for food pantries

Volunteers Michelangelo Gloss, of Brentwood, and Tamara Etheridge,

Volunteers Michelangelo Gloss, of Brentwood, and Tamara Etheridge, of Freeport, load produce onto a pallet headed for "Harvest for the World" located in Roosevelt as Long Island Cares hosts a farmers market to provide fresh local produce to food pantries Wednesday, May 31, 2017. Credit: Steve Pfost

One of the region’s largest hunger assistance organizations held a special farmers market Wednesday solely for food pantries and banks.

The market hosted by Long Island Cares in the parking lot of its Hauppauge warehouse boasted a cornucopia of produce for the more than two dozen organizations that rely on the nonprofit’s distributed foods.

While canned and boxed goods make up the bulk of Long Island Cares’ food supplies, “we do this periodically” with fresh produce, said Paule Pachter, the agency’s chief executive. “We were able to transfer some unspent funds for the purchase of fresh produce, which is a priority of ours and the state Department of Health.”

Wednesday’s market included 63,000 pounds of fresh produce, of which 15,000 pounds were grown at East End farms, Pachter said. The produce ranged from red cabbage and collards to escarole and squash, plus fruit such as apples, honeydew and papaya.

“It’s fantastic — we wait for this day to come every year,” said Maria Martinez, director of the First Christian Church food pantry in Brentwood. “The people we serve in our pantry and soup kitchen, they love to have the fresh fruit and vegetables.”

She said her food pantry received close to 1,800 pounds of the produce including cabbage, carrots, apples, oranges, and sweet potatoes.

“It’s very good quality every time we get it. It helps a lot,” Martinez said. First Christian Church will be distributing the produce on Friday from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. at 1818 Fifth Ave. in Bay Shore.

Providing access to fresh fruits and vegetables is part of Long Island Cares’s overall mission, Pachter said.

“The pantries that work with Long Island Cares focus on people’s health and nutrition, and it can’t always be emergency food, like peanut butter and jelly and pasta. There has to be a broad variety of healthy foods so we have the ability to keep people well,” he said. “Without fruits and vegetables, people aren’t getting the essential nutrients and vitamins to keep them well.”

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