Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Retiree helps the hungry in The Hamptons

By Brian Vitagliano, CNN
John Malafronte donates his vegetables to the needy on eastern Long Island, New York.
John Malafronte donates his vegetables to the needy on eastern Long Island, New York.
  • John Malafronte was a Wall Street exec who retired to the glitzy Hamptons
  • He started a plot in a community garden to keep active
  • He donated the vegetables to food pantries in need
  • With two other men, he founded a nonprofit to help people in need of food

Watch Anderson Cooper 360° on Wednesday for One Simple Thing, featuring people who, through small yet innovative ways, are making a difference in education, energy, the environment and the use of the planet's resources.

East Hampton, New York (CNN) -- When you think of The Hamptons, you don't usually think of food pantries or feeding the hungry.

Retired Wall Street executive John Malafronte does. Malafronte, 77, moved to East Hampton on the east of end of Long Island, New York after retiring with his wife. They permanently moved two years ago into a home they had bought 30 years prior when the east end was practically all farmland. There were no Ralph Lauren stores, or Porsches, or champagne-fueled polo matches.

To keep busy, Malafronte volunteered at local organizations in the area, starting with an organization called Meals on Wheels. Volunteers deliver food to the elderly, shut-ins or people who just can't afford to eat.

Malafronte also was a part of East End Community Organic Farm in East Hampton where he and his wife leased a 20-by-20 foot plot of farmland to grow vegetables.

John started to see other families at EECO Farm doing the same thing. The difference was they were doing it out of necessity. He would see families growing their own crops, just to provide enough food for their family, he said.

Malafronte asked two other men from the farm to partner with him in what they call Food Pantry Farm Inc. The nonprofit corporation leases roughly two acres of land from EECO Farm.

"The purpose of our corporation is to grow as much vegetables to feed the food pantries in and around East Hampton," Malafronte said.

He plants everything from arugula to zucchini, working on the farm with volunteers seven days a week, a few hours each day.

"I enjoy planting, I enjoy weeding, I enjoy harvesting -- but the most thrilling part of it comes when we deliver the food to the different pantries," he said.

Last year they harvested 19,000 pounds of vegetables and this season hope to harvest 25,000 pounds.

Malafronte delivers his organic produce to four different food pantries around the Hamptons where the demand is surprisingly high.

He recently delivered 35 boxes to the East Hampton Food Pantry where coordinator Gabrielle Scarpaci was grateful.

The pantry fed more than 27,000 people last year, she said. There are many seasonal workers in the area and single parents who have fallen on hard times.

People don't think of hungry people when they think of the Hamptons, Scarpaci said.

"It's just a tremendous help to us, our numbers are so high we are seeing 200 families a week, where in the past see 40 or 50 families. The need is so great in the area."

Many of the hungry are children, she said.

"I think we are feeding about 800 children a month. Once people hear that, they want to give back, a simple necessity, you know food is not a luxury, it's a necessity."

Malafonte said he'll farm to help his community as long as he can.

"This is very satisfying. I'm going to do this till the day I fall," he said.