Everyone coming to a pantry travels down a path. For many, this journey is a real load lightener. As the finances erode, the house goes. And, of course, when the house goes, everything that was in it goes too.
Furniture, kitchen stuff, toys, clothes, tools, garden implements. By the time a person or family gets to Motel 19, things have slimmed down to a few clothes, a blanket or two, a hot plate, or maybe an electric skillet or microwave.
For the families living in Model 19, the children are usually eligible for the school breakfast and/or lunch program. But, that doesn’t cover eating at home. And, there’s no lunch program for the adults.
So…it’s off to the pantry.
Several families usually pile in a car and come over for an afternoon of pantry shopping. Or, an individual hitch hikes. In order for this trip to succeed, several guidelines to follow will help:
Try to arrive an hour or so before the pantry opens. This makes for a long wait but there’s more of a selection right when the pantry opens. Also, while waiting in line, there’s an opportunity to make new friends and learn a few survival skills if you’re new to the pantry experience.
Bring your own shopping bags. Some pantries don’t have enough of these much needed items.
Bring some ID. Some pantries require much: picture ID, proof of address, proof that other household members exist. This can be a bit tough if you’re homeless. Hint: some pantries require little to no identification
Be prepared to wait in a line. Use this time to meet your line neighbors. They can be helpful if you’re trying to navigate your way through DSS, if you’re being foreclosed upon, need your car repaired, etc.
As you wait in line, try to learn how the pantry works from those around you in the line. You’ll want to know how long you’ll be in the shopping room, what foods are usually on the shelves, what other pantries the people in line shop at, etc.
Don’t be afraid to let people know you’ve never been to a pantry.
Once you find a pantry you can use, go every time you’re allowed. If you’re lucky, you’ll have a pantry in your area which will allow weekly visits. Because pantry shopping takes so much time, shoppers sometimes just don’t go if they still have SNAP card money or if they have a few bucks left over from a paycheck. Your best bet is to go every week.
Why? Most pantries have different food every week and you may miss out on some real savings by not attending regularly.
Pantry shopping requires a totally new approach to cooking. So does cooking with only an electric skillet or microwave.
Some pantries have periodic visits from a nutritionist. Don’t be shy about asking him/her for any tips you might need to help this adjustment a bit easier for you. Nutritionists know a lot about the food you are now trying to cook with and they can answer any questions you might have.
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PS: This book is at the publisher’s now. It will be available SOON! You can order it at http://www.thurmangreco.com.
The world of people who are homeless may seem very foreign – But, it’s actually very near. We meet people every day who are just like us, only they don’t have a roof over their heads.
We can all find ourselves without a roof when we lose a job. Or, maybe a spouse dies. Possibly an accident which leaves physical disabilities is the cause. In short, all it takes is a personal tragedy.
There are many things we can do to help end homelessness. There are many, many things we can do to help those who are struggling with homelessness.
One easy way we can help is to take a little extra food along when we go out of our home to work or on errands. A few extra sandwiches will help. When a person asks for change, offer him or her a sandwich.
A couple of times each year, gather the clothes you are no longer going to wear and donate them to shelters and pantries providing services to help those who are homeless.
While you gather clothes for the homeless, look at your family’s toys, books, and games and select those that are no longer being used. Children living in shelters have few possessions and will enjoy them.
Can you spare an hour or two? Tutors can make all the difference. Volunteer to tutor children in shelters.
Celebrate your birthday or anniversary and ask the people you invite to bring items for the homeless.
Carry fast food certificates with you when you are going out. Hand them out to people who are homeless.
Hold a food drive and take the food to a shelter or a pantry in your area.
Donate your collectable recyclable cans and bottles to people who are homeless. Donate a bag of groceries to a soup kitchen, shelter, or food pantry.
Volunteer at a food pantry or shelter.
Volunteer your professional services. Lawyers, doctors, psychiatrists, counselors, and dentists can all use your skills when you volunteer at a pantry or shelter.
Ask your company, church, school to host a fund-raising event for a pantry or homeless shelter. Items of dignity are really needed by the homeless.
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PS: The hunger book is really moving along. Things just never get finished as quickly as we all wish. Writing a book requires years and years of research and writing. In writing the hunger book, I have gone through thousands and thousands of sheets of paper and three computers. I have spent years and years getting this story moved from an event in my life to a book which will attract you or not in less than two minutes.
The homeless have problems just like you and me: employment, health issues, disabilities, domestic violence. They just don’t have a roof over their heads.
Homeless people, families enter food pantries very quietly. They’ve lost their voices. The goal is to melt into the background, get food, and disappear.
There’s an exception to the voicelessness – when the person communicates with beings unknown to the rest of us. One shopper I know has been in another world since before I began working in the pantry in 2005. He communicates in a high, shrill, unknown tongue which I cannot describe. His shrill vowels are punctuated with hard, sharp whistles, clicks, squeaks.
We can all help homeless people in some way. Each of us has talents and skills which can be useful.
DONATE. Homeless people carry their kitchens in their pockets . So much food which we take for granted is just not helpful. Important in the homeless diet is peanut butter and crackers in individually wrapped packages, cereal in self-serve packaging. Fruits and vegetables which can be eaten raw, milk and/or fruit juice in individual containers. Donate these items throughout the year by regularly giving the food to a food pantry in your area which is homlesss friendly.
VOLUNTEER. Pantries everywhere need an extra set of hands to answer mail, drive a truck, serve food, clean up at closing time, send press releases, hold food drives, stock and straighten shelves, deliver food to the home bound.
CLEAN OUT YOUR CLOSETS. Donate clothing, bedding, books, and other gently used items to places where the homeless will have access to them.
SHARE. Do you or someone you know have a garden? Donate the excess to a homeless friendly pantry in your area. When your garden tomatoes get to be too plentiful, there are those in your area who need the food.
PUSH THE ENVELOPE. Contact elected officials about homeless issues in your area. Encourage them to make ending homelessness important in your community.
EDUCATE YOURSELF. Returning veterans have special needs. For one thing, they begin separation from the military homeless.
FIND A JOB. Encourage your church or community to hire a homeless person. Many homeless want to work, have skills, but have trouble finding regular employment.
DO YOU HAVE A SKILL TO SHARE? Contact a local shelter and offer to give classes.
For a time, one of our most trusted volunteer/shoppers was homeless. His partner, Nancy, died and her children didn’t want him in the house they had lived in together for many years. He fought her children for a year with a lawyer, made several trips to court, the whole enchilada.
He finally moved out and ended up homeless for a time. He eventually got housing through a homeless veterans program. I helped him move his clothes and things over to his new apartment in Saugerties.
Homelessness cannot be generalized. Each homeless person is a special personality and has a special situation which s/he deals with. So here’s my rule about homeless people:
IF YOU’VE SEEN ONE HOMELESS PERSON, YOU’VE SEEN ONE HOMELESS PERSON.
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BOOK UPDATE: The new hunger book is going to be out soon. The publisher assures me that we’re going to see the book within a month! Hurrah!