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East End Food Institute Launches Virtual Farmer's Market

Pickled Carrots are among East End Food Institute farmer's market options. (Photo: Courtesy of East End Food Institute)

During these trying times there are so many among us whose heroic efforts and clever new ideas and responses have thankfully been launched for the benefit of many.

One such initiative is the virtual farmer's market store launched by the East End Food Institute (EEFI) approximately a month ago. Founded in 2010 by Carissa Waechter (of Carissa's Bakery), Katie Baldwin and Amanda Merrow (of Amber Waves) and John de Cuevas, EEFI is presently run by an executive director, house chef, operations manager and Program Coordinator Heather Meehan. The mission is still the same, which is "East End Food Institute (formerly Amagansett Food Institute) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that supports, promotes and advocates for local food and local producers."

Some of the EEFI team. (Photo: Courtesy of East End Food Institute)

Meehan explained, "The virtual farmer's market features small food businesses from our shared use incubator kitchen on the Stony Brook Southampton campus, as well as Riverhead farmer's market vendors and other local food businesses."

Continuing, "Since the farmer's outdoor markets are closed, we wanted to give local farmers and small local food producers an opportunity to still be able to sell their offerings. We extended the participation to the Riverhead Farmer's Market first but we now have a number of food businesses that operate out of our shared food kitchen as well as their own kitchens. The store is manned by our chef and operations manager who take care of the daily operations and food preparation."

Further, Meehan relayed, "We found that because of the timing of when this happened many farmers were very early in their season and did not have a huge amount of produce available, so they were selling to neighbors or regular customers, so we are not offering a great deal of fresh produce. However, this platform allows them to sell items such as ready to eat meals, gluten free pizza, shelf stables such as pesto, sauces, pickles, salad dressings, quiches, snacks, baked goods, pastries - all of which feature locally sourced, made, or grown ingredients, fruits and vegetables. We even have beverages that have been brewed in the shared kitchen on campus."

Encouraging locals to buy locally grown, harvested and sourced food, you can visit the virtual store, place your order, and use a credit or debit card. Participants are asked to spend a minimum of $50 and the free delivery directly to your door on both Forks happens every Wednesday and Friday, between 12:00 noon and 3:00 p.m.

To order just go to www.eastendfood.org and there you will find direct links to shop. Meehan confirmed, "Presently we have 20 participants but we believe that number will increase going forth as we have received such a positive response and a pretty steady flow of orders."

Pickles are also available. (Photo: Courtesy of East End Food Institute)

Meehan advised, "You can order what you want any day of the week and up to 10:00 a.m. on either Wednesday or Friday, but remember those two days and times are the only deliveries, and that includes prepared meals as well. We don't have an active store front, but do have a cafe on campus, however, that is closed due to the virus."

"Additionally, this initiative is helping us (EEFI) with our food pantry program. Our partnership with Springs and Heart of the Hamptons food pantries allows us to reach the food insecure in our community. We employ restaurant workers who are laid off due to COVID-19 to prepare ready to heat meals for food pantry patrons. This program continues year-round through our Farm to Community initiative which brings local produce to those in need."

Looking to the future, Meehan conveyed, "We are hoping that as this grows, we might be able to hire someone to do deliveries, and build up a distribution network. Right now we have staff members practicing social distancing and working from home who are also doing the deliveries, as we continue to add new customers."

Concluding, Meehan wanted to remind us all that "It is important to thank our kitchen staff that are working on site on the front lines, and are making and packing up orders. Many people are feeling a bit hopeless and food insecure, and this platform allows us to hopefully create a ripple effect where you can still enjoy a delicious meal and support your community too."

Again, visit www.eastendfood.org or call 631-632-5129.

Eileen Casey spent many years working in the television and music industries in New York City on the "ABC In Concert" weekly series, as well as several prime time network and cable television specials. An award-winning journalist, editor, and artist, and former Editor-in-Chief of Hamptons.com, she enjoys staying warm in Charleston and cool in the Hamptons.

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