Drive-through pantry at First Baptist Church draws big response

A drive-through food pantry at First Baptist Church of Riverhead drew so many people Monday that it quickly ran out of food, organizers say. 

After seeing 32 cars on its first day last Thursday, the drive-through food pantry saw 185 cars Monday, many of which arrived too late. 

A number of groups and businesses played key roles in setting up the drive-through pantry, including the church’s existing Open Arms Food Pantry, which is open Wednesdays and Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.; the Butterfly Effect Project; Michael White of Montauk Iced Tea; food distributor Sysco Corp.; Riverhead Ford; Riverhead Toyota; Rocco’s Pizza; and NoFo Community Cares. 

The Welcome Friends Food Pantry in Port Jefferson coordinated the operation. 

The food is donated by Sysco Corp. and drivers from the Ford and Toyota dealerships travel to Central Islip to pick it up and bring it back, according to Mr. White.

“We’re going to try to do this two days a week and give out food to people,” he said. “We’re giving out lettuce, kale, orange juice, water, cereals, canned foods, cheese, a lot of stuff. Every week it varies.”

So far, it’s only been done once a week.

Mr. White’s iced tea company also delivers some of the food to families in need once a week, said Tijuana Fulford of the Butterfly Effect Project, a nonprofit organization that helps to empower young girls. 

The demand for food at the drive-through caught organizers off guard. 

“We were supposed to start at 1:30 p.m. but we had cars lined up at around 12:15 p.m. People were already here when we were taking stuff off the trucks,” Ms. Fulford said. 

Shortly after 1:30 p.m., the planned starting time, everything was gone except empty cardboard boxes. 

The timing of the next drive-through pantry has not been decided yet, Ms. Fulford said. “We all come together at the drop of a dime when we get a phone call saying when there is going to be food available,” she said. “Everybody literally stops what they are doing. We never know in advance what day it will be.”

The effort at First Baptist will now proceed in conjunction with a new group called NoFo Community Cares, which was formed last Thursday by Duncan Kennedy of the Duncan Inn, Melissa Caggiano of Jamesport Farm Brewery and Danielle LaScala of Mattituck Florist.

“We got together … and figured out a way we can do something to help people who are going to need assistance,” Mr. Kennedy said Tuesday. 

So on Saturdays and Sundays, NoFo Community Cares will open a food pantry at Jamesport Farm Brewery on Sound Avenue, he said. The organization also has established numerous drop-off points where people can donate food — and more are planned.

Donations are being accepted at the following places and times: 

• Duncan Inn, Jamesport: daily until 5 p.m. (Those who donate here will receive a free roll of toilet paper, Mr. Kennedy said.) 

• Main Road Biscuit Co., Jamesport: Thursday-Sunday, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. and 5-8 p.m. 

• Jamesport Farm Brewery: Saturday and Sunday, noon-5 p.m.

• Village Cheese Shop, Mattituck: daily, 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. 

• aMano Restaurant, Mattituck: Wednesday-Monday, 4-8:30 p.m.

• Our Little Free Pantry, Penelope Rudder, Greenport: daily, 9 a.m.-6 p.m.

• 1943 Pizza Bar, Greenport: Monday and Tuesday, 5-8 p.m.; Thursday-Sunday, noon-8 p.m. 

• Ellen’s On Front, Greenport: daily, noon-8 p.m. 

• Farmer Jenn’s Farmstand, Aquebogue: daily, Peconic Bay Boulevard

• Toni Marie Ruggiero: 48 18th St., Wading River 

Look for a box or bin with the sign at these locations, Mr. Kennedy said.

NoFo Community Cares has established a Facebook page where information will be updated and shared. 

Likewise, the Butterfly Effect Project is using its Facebook page to post updated information about the effort at First Baptist Church, Ms. Fulford said. 

Service industry workers who relied on tips, people who are self-employed and people who, for whatever reason, are working off the books are finding themselves in difficult positions, Mr. Kennedy said.

Both he and Ms. Fulford said the food is being distributed with no questions asked.