Kate Fullam steps down from East End Food

When Kate Fullam began her journey cultivating East End Food in 2018, she said turning produce into products for farms and other institutions in the community was simply an idea, not yet a reality. 

In the last six years, the nonprofit organization has hit major milestones and as Ms. Fullam resigns as East End Food’s executive director, she said she feels proud of the team she has built and the region-wide impact they have made. 

For Ms. Fullam, the best part of this journey was meeting all the individuals who have been positively impacted by East End Food’s mission: creating a more sustainable and equitable local food ecosystem by connecting farmers, food producers and community. 

“I’m so engrained in this, and I thought how could I ever move forward, but I’ve been met with nothing but kindness [and] gratitude,” Ms. Fullam said. “The response has been an affirmation of what I already knew, which is that I’ve encountered some really wonderful people over the last few years.” 

Ms. Fullam accepted a position as Food Systems Team Lead at the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets. As part of the Division of Agricultural Development, she said she will cover the downstate region — Hudson Valley, New York City and Long Island — and gather information that could aid in the implementation of different policies and programs at the state level. 

This includes bringing awareness of grant opportunities, potential state regulations and other measures to the governor and department commissioner. 

“From what I’ve seen throughout my career, whether it be economically, environmentally, or its food systems, Long Island is this interesting incubator for ideas throughout the state,” Ms. Fullam said. “It will be interesting for me to be able to share some of the programs that are coming out of Long Island, to springboard and share that with my colleagues throughout the state and really be able to share what’s working, potentially replicate throughout the state and learn things from other areas in the state that could work for Long Island.” 

As of last week, Ms. Fullam passed the torch to her colleague Bob Hatton, who now serves as the interim executive director of East End Food

Ms. Fullam said that rather than “burying their heads in the sand” during the COVID-19 pandemic, she and Mr. Hatton — while each juggling being parents, homeschooling and operating East End Food all at once — worked together to streamline the food system and make a difference during a challenging time. 

Mr. Hatton said he will temporarily oversee and move operations forward while the organization goes through the process of finding a permanent executive director. 

“Kate was definitely the right person for the job — to take us from a very small, kind of fledgling organization, and to grow our work up to where we are now,” Mr. Hatton said. “We need new leadership to kind of take us out of adolescence and into the next phase of our organization.” 

In addition to Mr. Hatton stepping up within the organization, Miranda Capriotti — who joined East End Food in 2021 and served as an outreach manager — has taken on the role of development director. 

Ms. Capriotti said when Ms. Fullam first stepped into the executive director role, East End Food was Amagansett Food Institute, which was more of a reactionary food distribution program.

She said Ms. Fullam saw the value in the original program, took it a step further and established a program where farmers could sell their products wholesale, rather than asking for donations. 

“It’s the legacy that she’s leaving behind — her work isn’t going anywhere,” Ms. Capriotti said. “We are going to continue our efforts and continue to grow the mission to support farmers and everyone to have greater access to local food.” 

A big project Ms. Fullam 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.

Ms. Fullam said not seeing the East End Food Hub construction through to completion made it difficult to leave, but she believes community investment in the project is critical and urges others, especially other foundations and local businesses, to “bring it across the finish line.” 

She said she plans to volunteer her time to give any advice she can to move the East End Food Hub forward. 

“It’s a really important piece of the puzzle in terms of solidifying the food supply chain, but also supporting the continuation of food production for eastern Long Island,” she said. “Six years ago, East End Food was a $250,000 a year budget organization, it is now a million-dollar-a-year organization — people are paying attention to food supply chain, but it’s an extraordinary weight to carry for a small organization.”