Skip to content


Your cart is empty

Subscribe and save 10% on your next purchase.

The Mast Journal is a customer favorite for great content. Enjoy compelling interviews, essays, announcements, and promotions.

Mt. Kisco Interfaith Food Pantry

“I’ve always had an interest in all things food: I love to cook, I love to garden, I love to eat. I like everything that has to do with food, and it’s an important part of our family. It really wasn’t right that a lot of people in my community didn’t have access to food. So I just jumped in.” - Sharon Seidell, President of Mount Kisco Interfaith Food Pantry

This week, we sat down with the indefatigable Sharon Seidell, president of the Mount Kisco Interfaith Food Pantry. Sharon has been a dedicated member of the Pantry for years, moving from volunteer, to board member, to her current leadership role as president. She is especially focused on the organization’s strategic direction, and oversees its Food 4 Wellness program which provides nutrition education to hundreds of local families across Westchester County.

We have been fortunate to partner with the Mount Kisco Interfaith Food Pantry since 2020, and look forward to continuing the relationship for years to come. It has been an immensely rewarding way to connect with the community since launching Mast Market and the good work that the Interfaith Pantry has been doing for years continues to inspire.

Find out how you can get involved here, and enjoy our conversation with Sharon below.

MKIFP volunteers preparing food donations.

Mast Journal: How did you come to get involved with the Mount Kisco Interfaith Food Pantry, and eventually become President?

Sharon: Before I retired, I had done some volunteering at the Food Pantry, and one of the past presidents is also a member of Bedford Presbyterian Church, where I also attend. She was going to be leaving and they needed another board member representing the church; I ended up getting onto the board and just continued to get more and more involved. I got very familiar with the ins and outs of the Pantry, I learned about food insecurity, nutrition insecurity, and all of that. So they were looking for more leadership roles, and I actually became co-president with another member, and then she eventually stepped back into her role in Operations and I kept going as president.

Mast Journal: So you were volunteering well before you became a leadership member. When did your interest in food insecurity and community service originally take root?

Sharon: It definitely grew over time – when I was working full-time and raising two kids and just busy with life, I didn’t have as much time to devote. Then when I was nearing retirement and thinking about what I wanted to do, I was actually introduced to this whole concept when I went to a special event hosted by Feeding Westchester, which is actually the food bank for Westchester County. And I thought to myself, “Wait a minute – this is Westchester County, New York. Why are they saying they have all these people that don’t have enough food to eat?” So I just slowly but surely became much more aware and started learning about these issues. I’ve always had an interest in all things food: I love to cook, I love to garden, I love to eat. I like everything that has to do with food, and it’s an important part of our family. It really wasn’t right that a lot of people in my community didn’t have access to food. So I just jumped in.

Mast Journal: What goes into running a pantry? What does your day look like as president?

Sharon: The Mount Kisco Food Pantry is a little unique, in that it is a very, very large organization with about an $800,000 budget, and really almost completely volunteer-run staff. We have a paid Director of Operations and Programs, and she is really the inner workings of the pantry. She is the one that orders all the food, maintains relationships with the food providers and the community that we serve, and schedules programming. My day-to-day is not so much dealing with those business and operational things; my biggest focus for this year has been setting a strategic direction, which includes a program we call Food 4 Wellness. We’re really focused on helping the people that need us for food to really thrive. We don’t want anyone to come slinking into some dark space that only has canned peaches and rice and cereal. We want to ensure it’s a welcoming, stress-free environment, and that they have access to the same kinds of nutritious foods that you or I would purchase at the grocery store.

Mast Journal: Your website says that the pandemic led to a 48% increase in your guest visits. It’s incredible that you were able to provide that vital level of support to the community, but I imagine it must have been very challenging behind the scenes to accommodate the increase. What did that look like?

Sharon: It was very challenging for the Operations team. Not only could we not have groups of people waiting in the same room together to select their groceries, but we also had to pre-pack grocery bags which is typically not our preference. As soon as we could, we went back to the choice pantry, where the guests walk in and choose the items they want. And of course, there was a much higher volume of food. We were very blessed with an extremely generous community. One thing we didn’t have to worry about was, “How are we going to pay for this?” People just understood and really came through.

Mast Journal: Do businesses and partners usually reach out to you, or do you reach out to them?

Sharon: Both. I like to think of it as a “connect the dots” system, especially in this community. Someone will hear about us doing something, I’ll hear about another program going on, and the connection will be made. Mount Kisco Elementary, for example, has a wonderful Garden Coordinator; she has energized that school and made the most beautiful garden. She got involved with us. So there are lots of different ways it happens.

Mast Journal: For people who don’t know much about food insecurity and the systemic ways that arises, how would you recommend they educate themselves? Is it just getting in there and volunteering, or is there any particular literature you like.

Sharon: My first reaction is just, “Jump right in.” Get involved in some way. Volunteer at the pantry, or there are a number of organizations and farms, for example, who care very much about this and are using regenerative farming methods to address these issues and want good, local food getting to the right people. There are businesses like Mast, too, who are passionate about this. So supporting those local businesses is also hugely important. InterGenerate does community gardens, Westchester Local Food Project has many, many programs and opportunities for volunteering. And as you said, there are a lot of books and podcasts that are really accessible and easy to understand. People are doing a lot of cool things right now.

Mast Journal: How has being involved with the pantry impacted you, personally? What have you learned about community, about people, or about yourself?

Sharon: For me, I like feeling useful. And I do feel that this is a good cause, and my skills are being used. I think that’s especially important as you retire. Giving back is very therapeutic, and it’s also been very meaningful. I’ve also learned that there are a lot of talented people in this non-profit space. The team that I work with especially is unbelievably talented. And the people we serve are gracious, thankful, and it really makes a difference in their lives. So that’s a very rewarding thing, because it’s wonderful to see people really benefit and have one less thing they need to worry about.

Mast Journal: What’s your favorite part about what you do?

Sharon: I really love the strategy piece, the implementation of Food 4 Wellness, and figuring out how to make what we do even more impactful. That’s the fun part.

Mast Journal: Heading into the holidays, what’s on deck for the Pantry?

Sharon: This is one of our big fundraising times of the year, so that’s pretty significant. For Thanksgiving, we have special distribution at the pantry so we’ll get extra items that might be extra useful around the holidays – things like sugar, flour, cookies at Christmas. We also have a turkey and chicken distribution, where members can pick up their choice of a turkey or chicken for Thanksgiving. We’ll do that as well at Christmas.

More from The Journal

Dana Cowin is Speaking Broadly

Dana Cowin is Speaking Broadly

In conversation with food media titan (and Food & Wine’s longtime Editor-In-Chief), Dana Cowin.

Read more
Deep Roots with Scott O’Rourke

Deep Roots with Scott O’Rourke

In conversation with Scott O’Rourke of Deep Roots Farm in Copake, NY.

Read more