As the Coronavirus pandemic spread throughout the US, food pantries across the nation have faced an unprecedented number of individuals seeking their services.
“Prior to COVID-19 the Montauk Food Pantry serviced approximately 100 families,” Alice Houseknecht, Pantry Director, explained. “Since the Pandemic we are serving close to 300 families. We have tripled the number of recipients and we have doubled our distribution dates.”
To help with the increase in demand the Montauk Food Pantry is experiencing, Peter Ciaccia, former New York Road Runners (NYRR) President and New York City Marathon Race Director, has organized the virtual Montauk Need 2 Feed 5K.
“I have been a resident out here, in Montauk, since I retired back in 2018, but have actually been out in Montauk for many, many years. Since I retired, that was my decision – to move out to Montauk,” Ciaccia told Hamptons.com. “I love the community, always have, and then I got involved with the Food Pantry. I just felt it was a way that we can raise money by keeping people active and healthy and getting out there, but of course following the guidelines with social distancing and face covering.”
The Montauk Need 2 Feed 5K will be held from Saturday, May 9 through Sunday, May 17, and participating is a breeze. If you go for a 5K run, jog, walk, or hike, you can post your results on events.elitefeats.com/need2feed20. When entering your time, there’s even the option to upload a few selfies or photos. If you share those pictures on your social channels too, make sure to include #MTKNeed2Feed5K #MontaukFoodPantry #Montauk #MTK #efVirtualRunWalk. The 5K entry fee is $25, with net proceeds going directly to the Montauk Food Pantry.
“I was President of New York Road Runners and the Race Director of the New York City Marathon, so running is my passion, it’s in my blood,” he explained. “Having a bit of experience putting things together, virtual racing is a new realm for everybody. But it’s a way for the communities to kind of connect when you’re not really connecting physically.”
Ciaccia has been enjoying his intro to this new digital realm. “It’s fun, it’s kind of unique,” Ciaccia said about organizing his first virtual run. “It’s a little different than organizing a regular race but, at New York Road Runners we had virtual racing as part of our offerings. So, it’s a formula that I’m quite familiar with, but personally, myself as a retired race director, it’s my first virtual run.”
A surgery Ciaccia had last year puts him into a high-risk category, yet he remains committed to helping the Montauk Food Pantry however he can. “I have to be careful with how I’m dealing with being in groups. This was a way, because I couldn’t go down there as much as I wanted to during my recovery, but this is a way to still help out and give back.”
As a beloved member of the NYRR and New York City Marathon communities, Ciaccia has enlisted friends that he’s made throughout the years to join the cause. “We’re starting to see a big rise in the number of participants and donors, and my outreach has been to the people in the running industry that I’ve amassed over almost 18 years, and the professional runners as well,” he shared. “There’s some professional runners that are taking part. It’s going to be a lot of fun to see how it shakes out. But, more importantly, it’s about how much we could raise and whatever we could raise, it’s a good thing.”
Ciaccia continued, “It’s going to take a while to recover, a while for families to bounce back, and so there’s going to be that need, and I think that’s what we try to remember and try to help out with.”
During the pandemic, the Montauk Food Pantry has switched distribution to every two weeks, drive thru only.
“It’s just a way to give back to the community,” Ciaccia noted about his work with the Pantry.
Fran Ecker, Ines Fox, and Shelly Engstrom founded the Montauk Food Pantry in 1984. The trio established the Food Pantry in response to learning that children in the community did not have access to sufficient food when lunchtime came.
“It’s all about community, taking care of each other. It’s very stressful for people at this time. But remember we’re all in this together, so we have to really, really take care of each other,” he concluded.
For more information, visit www.montaukfoodpantry.org.