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INTERVIEW: Long Island Cares CEO Paule Patcher Talks Long Island’s First Food Bank, COVID Challenges And More

T.J. Clemente

Long Island Cares CEO Paule Pachter. (Courtesy Photo)

The name of the organization, Long Island Cares, pretty much sums up the vision of its founder, Harry Chapin. Now, many decades later under the leadership of CEO Paule Pachter, the organization is being challenged by the reality of a pandemic and its trail of destruction on Long Island. In an interview with Hamptons.com, Pachter was kind enough to explain the challenges, successes, and his vision for Long Island Cares.

As CEO of Long Island Cares, I asked Pachter how difficult has this last year been due to COVID-19? He responded, "I would say it was challenging for me personally, for the agency, and certainly for the people that work here." When asked how has this new challenge impacted Long Island Cares, Pachter said, "The only way to answer that is as a result of the pandemic and subsequent employment, illness, and self-isolation and everything else that came with it, we saw an additional 220,000 Long Islanders who visited the food banks and the food pantries for emergency food assistance. When you are looking at a 63 percent increase in incidents of food insecurities in two counties, that's why we are motivated to do what we do."

Pachter further explained, "We have distributed over $250,000, we gave out grants based upon a competitive applications process. We reached out to 374 organizations, asked them what their needs were, what their major challenges are at this time, and based upon what came back, we made those decisions. However, there were other monies that we received, private dollars, corporate dollars, foundation dollars, that were above and beyond the $250,000 grant money. So, we have helped almost all of our agencies with additional grants. Now, we are providing donations of $1,000 and $2,000 to some grassroot organizations on the Island that sprung up in response to COVID-19, such as Carol's Kitchen. We have given new organizations grants as well. When we have all that money, there is no reason for us to just sit on it."

He was kind enough to go on record with his forecast for 2021. He said, "I am optimistic that we will be able to meet the increased need in the Long Island region this year with planning, including new programs to continue to make it easy for people to access emergency food assistance. I am hopeful, given all the public awareness of the food banks and the issue of food insecurity in the country, that under President Biden there is going to be a big Federal push to begin to chip away at why there is so much hunger in America and why during a pandemic like this, which has completely created a situation where there are 50 million Americans who don't know where they are going to get their next meal from. So, Long Island Cares, last November, reached out to then President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris and proposed that they convene a 'Presidential Commission on Food Insecurity' within their first 100 days of office."

Asked about his most gratifying accomplishment as CEO of Long Island Cares, Pachter said, "I think up there on top would be our 'Satellite' programs that we established over the last decade - the ones in Freeport, Lindenhurst, Huntington Station, and Hampton Bays. Those have been very successful at making food available to people very conveniently, because we are located in six locations throughout the two counties. Also, certainly opening up Baxter's Pet Pantry in Lindenhurst that is providing a unique service to families in need that happen to have a dog or a cat. Add to that our food trucks, our government affairs work that we doing in terms of advocacy - so all those are on top of my list."

On the East End, agencies belonging to LIC include Bridgehampton Community FP, CAST-Community Action Southold Town, East Hampton Food Pantry, East Hampton FP @ EH High School, Heart of the Hamptons, Living Water Food Pantry, Long Island Cares East End Humanitarian Center, Montauk Community Food Pantry, North Fork Parish Outreach, Peggy's Pantry, Phoenix House/ East Academy, Springs Community, St. Rosalies Food Pantry, The Lord's Cupboard, The Retreat, Joseph Storehouse, Open Arms Care Center FP, St. John the Evangelist RC Food Pantry, LI Child & Family Development Services, The Salvation Army/Riverhd FP, Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, CHI Inc./Riverhead, AMHW/Helping Hands East End, Galilee COGIC, The Main Street Market FP, Church of the Harvest, and Suffolk County Comm College/Eastern Campus FP.

Pachter added, "If anyone wants to know more about us, look up some information and are interested in donating all they have to do is log on to www.licares.org."

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