Since taking the helm as executive director at the East End Food Institute, now known as East End Food, in 2018, Kate Fullam has worked tirelessly to realize the organization’s top goal of creating a more sustainable and equitable local food ecosystem by connecting farmers and food producers directly with the community.
Ms. Fullam knows food in ways that most don’t—what farm to table really means and where the holes exist that can create a disconnect between people and food, leading to food waste and food deserts. As a member of the Southampton Town Planning Board, Suffolk County Food Policy Council, Long Island Regional Economic Development Council and New York State Food Procurement Advisory Group, she works everyday to help farmers sell more goods and ensure everyone has access to quality, healthy food.
For her efforts to boost community health overall and for her experience bringing community members together, Ms. Fullam is Riverhead News-Review’s 2023 Community Leader of the year.
“As Executive Director of East End Food, Ms. Fullam uses her platform to advocate for systemic changes that promote sustainability and equity in the local food system,” said East End Food Outreach Manager Miranda Capriotti. “In a relatively short time, Ms. Fullam has transformed the organization from a reactionary food distribution program to a dynamic institution that addresses the needs of everyone participating in the local food system.”
Bob Hatton, associate director of East End Food has worked with Ms. Fullam since July of 2018 when she hired him on as Operations Manager. “Kate is an incredible leader for this organization and the local community. She has a clear, long-term vision for East End Food to increase the impact of our mission and she is working hard to get us there.”
A big project she championed in 2023 was relocating the East End Food Hub from the campus of Stony Brook University in Southampton to 139 Main Road in Riverhead. Plans include a space for a farmers market, demonstration spaces for nutrition education, a shared community kitchen, a food processing area and warehouse as well as cold storage for aggregation and distribution of locally sourced food.
“East End Food Hub is a transformative initiative that will shape the future of our community’s food ecosystem,” Ms. Fullam said at the groundbreaking of the Riverhead facility in July. “This groundbreaking ceremony symbolizes our commitment to building a sustainable, inclusive and resilient food system that empowers local farmers, launches small businesses and connects everyone to local food.”
At the time of the groundbreaking, the renovation cost was estimated at $3 million, and East End Food had already secured $1.3 million in grants and private donations to start construction. Food Hub site tours were given at the Saturday East End Food Market since November to give the community the chance to see the progress and drum up the rest of the financial support needed to finish the project.
On a Food Hub tour in December given by East End Food Event Coordinator Kayla Barthelme, the rooms were laid out, the walls were up and the electricity was installed. The space is expansive, especially the room slated to house permanent market stalls for food producers.
Even more impressive were East End Food’s services outlined during the tour. Ms. Barthelme detailed how a local food producer could use the commercial kitchen on site to make branded goods or work with East End Food’s production staff to scale recipes and make the goods for them.
With so many people involved from the East End Food team to vendors to construction companies, Ms. Fullam’s plate is full. Mr. Hatton said she has what it takes to handle all the moving parts. “She also has the ability to zoom in on smaller details when needed to support our staff but favors a more hands-off supervisorial approach to increase staff empowerment. She has a very strong work ethic and a passion for affecting positive change in the broader community. She also has a lot of empathy for individuals (whether they be staff, farmers, market vendors, and other stakeholders) which allows her to see issues from multiple angles and drives her to be flexible and adaptable as needed.”
Ms. Capriotti agreed. “Beyond her impressive professional achievements, Ms. Fullam stands out as a compassionate leader,” she said. “She excels at connecting with others on a personal level, ensuring that everyone she engages with feels genuinely heard. This quality sets her apart, fostering a positive and inclusive work environment where collaboration thrives.”
Ms. Fullam brings her passion for food, community health and the environment to her work at East End Food. “We’re impacting the environment, the economy and equitable access to food, which leads to a healthier community,” she said in a previous interview. “It’s an essential piece to make sure agriculture survives, people stay healthy and resilient.”
*The award was previously called Civic Person of the Year
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