This Could Be Stone Barns East: Long Island’s New Food Institute

AMAGANSETT–The dream for the Amagansett Food Institute was conceived over a dinner of harvest produce on Stony Hill Road a year ago on a golden October evening–for a center that would pull the East End together with a focus on supporting local farmers, educating its citizens (especially the young citizens) about healthy and fantastic eating, and helping to feed its hungry. With that night’s diners including Katie Baldwin and Amanda Morrow, the team who run Amber Waves Farm, and John De Cuevas and Carissa Waechter, the former baker at the Amagansett Farmers Market — all practiced at executing their dreams — the new non-profit Amagansett Food Institute is underway with dozens of programs to come.

The focus on food “literacy” is definitely in the air, from the Hudson Valley work of the Sylvia Center to the Upper West Side work of Bill Telepan, both of which we’ve written about in these pages. Back out east, 316 students in the East Hampton Middle School recently sampled a pre-Thanksgiving spread of local foods including veggie pizzas from Foody’s chef-owner Bryan Futerman, pumpkin soup from Nick & Toni’s executive chef Joe Realmuto, and natural cheddar from Lucy Kazickas of Lucy’s Whey. Several weeks earlier, students crammed a farmer’s market at the school, and a foraging program was bringing excess produce from a half-dozen farms to the Springs Food Pantry.  To come: a moveable pizza oven offering bread and healthy pizzas to schools and farmers markets, a summer speakers series and progress on the big dream.

The goal of AFI’s ambitious bricks and mortar phase: Funding to buy the Pacific East property on Amagansett’s Main Street and replace it with a new community food education center with a professional kitchen open 24-hours a day to qualified users; space to meet, for demonstrations, lectures, classes; a farmers market; possibly a cafe. Grant-writing is underway. The AFI has already received a $25,000 grant from the Baker Foundation, a large contribution and offer of an additional matching grant from Alec Baldwin.  Katie Baldwin’s (no relation to Alec) eyes flash, “This could be Stone Barns East.”

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