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Rockville Centre food pantry changes delivery model

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The Experience Pantry, at The Experience Vineyard Church in Rockville Centre, is one of the few food pantries still open amid the coronavirus pandemic, and to comply with the latest guidelines, is now providing bags of food to those in need in a drive-through format.

Starting on Saturday, volunteers at the pantry put bags of groceries directly into recipients’ vehicles. This is a change from the regular client-choice model.

The pantry receives donations from Island Harvest Food Bank, Trader Joe’s and members of the community, and is also stocked through the church’s pantry budget. Due to the shortage of packaged goods at grocery stores in the area, Julie Longwood, the pantry director, said that this week the bags were filled with a lot of meat and produce. Additional items include milk, juice, bread and snacks.

Experience Pantry was closed for six months for renovations, and relaunched in mid-November. Longwood said it typically supplies about 90 families with food every week, though last Saturday, only 66 families came.

“I was surprised that last week was lower than normal,” Longwood said, “but I do anticipate a greater need in the coming weeks, based on the phone calls I’ve received.”

On Saturday, grocery bags were already packed and ready to be put into cars. Longwood said that team members take extra precautions by wearing gloves and masks and limiting contact with others.

Experience Pantry is open to anyone in need. Normally, Longwood said, they ask customers to sign in, using a point system for using the pantry. Now she said, they are just asked by Island Harvest to keep a count of the number of families.

Those wishing to donate can contact Experience Pantry at (516) 678-7888; the pantry especially needs canned goods and paper products at this time.

“Although, anything is a huge a benefit,” Longwood said.

The pantry is located at 251 Merrick Road in Rockville Centre and is open every Saturday from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m.