Essential Market Fights Food Insecurity With Dignity


According to Long Island Cares CEO Paule Pachter, 250,000 Long Islanders worry about having enough food to feed their families. Given the economic wallop being delivered by pandemic fallout, inflation, soaring gas prices and a potential recession, the nonprofit’s vision of ‘A Hunger Free Long Island’ couldn’t be applied at a more crucial time. To that end, the organization’s latest innovative stroke was the October 2021 launching of its Essential Market in Bethpage.

The Essential Market is located in Bethpage and was constructed out of two storefronts.(Photo courtesy of Long Island Cares)

What was formerly a food packing location has instead been transformed into a boutique-style supermarket that was designed by H2M architects and engineers. Its unique design earned Long Island Cares the “Top Nonprofit Project” title in Long Island Business News’ 2022 Real Estate, Architecture and Engineering Awards. It’s an accolade that Dr. Jessica Rosati, Long Island Cares’ Chief Program Officer, is rightfully proud of and reflects the goals aimed at in launching this initiative.
“When we decided on the Essential Market, we wanted it to mirror the same services that we had in our other satellite offices but just look differently, because people were coming back into being face-to-face with other individuals and having those one-on-one interactions,” she said. “We really wanted to create an environment where people felt comfortable and safe. And where they could have that good shopping experience and have that independence of choosing the items that they have.”

Reggie, a Vietnam vet, making selections at the Essential Market
(Photo courtesy of Long Island Cares)

The roughly 3,000-square foot space is in a strip mall where two store fronts were combined, and took 14 months to complete. It presented a unique opportunity and challenge for H2M designer Eric Heatherington.
“We really wanted to incorporate the needs of Long Island Cares and really look into facilitating and maximizing the product they were distributing—the food and all the services they were providing through their organization,” Heatherington said. “We wanted to maximize that, but also make it so it wasn’t like you just come in and grab food out of a bin or pallet, which is previously how they did it before. We were trying to make it work by separating the back of the house from the front of the house and make it almost like a grocery store so to speak.”

Some of the wares on display at the Essential Market
(Photo courtesy of Long Island Cares)

Located at 386 North Wantagh Ave. in Bethpage, the Essential Market is open Monday-Wednesday-Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Tuesday and Thursday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Clients are escorted through the market by Long Island Cares volunteers and have access to a variety of ethnic-style food products including canned goods, meat, produce, dairy products and more. Tuesdays are also dedicated to veterans of the armed services. For Reggie, a Vietnam veteran who has been coming to the Essential Market all the way in from Roosevelt since before it underwent its transformation and relaunched in October, the site has been a godsend for this 75-year-old Brooklyn native who suffers from a number of health issues including diabetes, PTSD and high blood pressure.
“They redid the place and its really nice there,” he said. “The vegetables are fresh. You can’t go to Shoprite and get anything fresher. [My doctors] have got me on a very strict diet of what I can and can’t eat, especially given how I’m on dialysis two or three times a week. I’ve gotta watch everything I eat. The fresh produce is incredible as are the eggs.”

Vietnam veteran Reggie during his weekly foray over to Bethpage’s Essential Market
(Photo courtesy of Long Island Cares)

That drive to provide a safe, clean and dignified way of providing services to its clientele is a big motivator for Essential Market program coordinator Harrison Smith.
“What I think is most important about the Essential Market is we give people the ability to choose what they get, ensuring that when they leave, they are getting nutritious and satisfying meals or accessing food that they know they’re going to go home and like,” Smith explained. “We’ve gotten really good reception from it. I try to make sure our volunteers that are here have a positive attitude. We try to be as accommodating as we can. We want to make the clients we serve feel welcome and that there isn’t a problem in getting more help when you need it. A lot of people feel like there’s a stigma towards asking for help. We’re trying to eliminate that.”

Another unique facet of the Essential Market is that other nonprofit organizations that help people with nonfood items like hearing aids, cell phones, health care and food stamps are brought in to help out, essentially providing a nonprofit-driven social safety net for a vulnerable population in need. It’s all an extension of Long Island Cares’ four other satellite locations in Huntington Station, Hampton Bays, Freeport and Lindenhurst. Baxter’s Pet Pantry is also located in Lindenhurst. Think of it as one-stop shopping hinging on organizational teamwork, both inside and outside of Long Island Cares, making the dream work. It’s a sentiment Rosati wholeheartedly agrees with.
“Right now with inflation, everyone is hurting,” she said. “I think we’re more powerful together. If Long Island Cares can serve as a base for other nonprofits to help spread services to Long Islanders in need, we are more than happy to collaborate, partner together and enhance the lives of others.”

Visit or call 516-753-9880 to find out more about the Essential Market.

Leave a Reply