Writing this blog post was risky. In the early days I worried about peoples’ opinions. I wrote my first blog entries with skeptics in mind. On some level it was important to me for pantry deniers to understand that there are, indeed, hungry people around us
One day I saw clearly that some people aren’t going to like me or my work. Nor are they going to believe what I write, no matter what I say. Once I realized that truth, I knew I’d been wasting energy on other people’s opinions.
I’m no longer interested in convincing anyone about what it means to go to bed hungry.
I’m okay with people saying anything about me because I know the chapters I write are true. The words I write make a difference in peoples’ lives.
This blog is about people creating better lives for themselves while not having enough to eat and lacking proper healthcare, housing.
This blog is about healing and creating new opportunities in one’s life. This blog is about people changing their lives – against all odds.
While I tell this story, I know some people won’t believe a word. It’s okay. I have my story and they have their story.
Food and sex and money are three words and issues more concerned with a person’s core beliefs, emotions, and spiritual attitudes than anything else.
These three words offer rules for everyone. We each have core beliefs around them with opinions about what is okay and what isn’t okay. We have attitudes about food, sex, and money based on what we were taught by family members and peers when we were children. We live our lives based on those experiences. Reduced to their lowest common denominator, these words – food, sex, and money – are the same. They touch core beliefs in ways going straight to the heart and soul.
The food pantry was all about food and money. The sex part was limited, but still there. Sex happened in the pantry hallway line when a shopper suffering with mental illness, a handsome young man who lived in another world, masturbated in the food line.
Our attitudes, opinions, feelings about feeding hungry people are or are not based on facts, statistics, or reality. Nor will facts, statistics, information, change attitudes.
Finally, we all have beliefs about who it’s okay to feed and who it’s not okay to feed. My beliefs are based on life experiences, facts, statistics. Their beliefs are based on the same. I may have taken classes, gone to therapy. And, they may have also.
Their reality about what is okay and my reality about what is okay differ.
In the food pantry hallway, we all looked at the same people and saw different things. This situation is proof positive we each create our own reality about hungry people. Nothing changes either reality. We each see hungry people through lenses shaped by separate life experiences. Hungry people don’t live in two realities.
As the lines got longer, we looked at people in the line. I saw hungry people and they didn’t. I interacted with people weekly who dumpster-dived to feed themselves as well as their children, parents, housemates. Occasionally I read articles about the ethics of dumpster diving. I didn’t think we could explore the ethics of allowing people go hungry because they couldn’t make enough money at their jobs to buy the food they needed to live and work.
People coming to a food pantry can take a three-day-supply of food home each week. The other four days, they’re on their own. That means they can buy more food if they have a SNAP card and if they can get to a store selling food. If they don’t have the money or a SNAP card, they get creative or go hungry. This involves panhandleing, borrowing money or food from friends, relatives, neighbors. They can steal, dumpster-dive, drop in at someone’s house at mealtime, and skip meals.
“Thurman is out of control over at the food pantry” described the local vicar because of the number of people shopping at the pantry and the amount of food they took home.
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Your vacation time is here! It’s your last chance to get a break this summer. That means it’s time to go to the beach – to the mountains – to the city – ANYWHERE!
What do you have to do to get away? Well, first, find a place to go. Second, pack your bags.
FINALLY, drop off loads of food to your neighborhood food pantry before you take off on your vacation..
August is the most challenging month of the year for food pantries because it’s the month with the least amount of food available at the food bank. Food pantries get most of their food from donations and very few people donate in August. And, sadly, this carries right through to September. September brings school openings with parents getting ready for school lunches. Food pantries are often empty.
It’s my opinion that people don’t donate food to food pantries in August because they’re focused on their own activities: vacation, getting kids ready for school.
But, your neighborhood food pantry doesn’t have to be empty. There are things you can do. You can organize a food drive in your neighborhood and take the food to the food pantry. You can keep the food flowing right through to October.
Thank you in advance for thinking of things you can do for your food pantry during the leanest months of the year.
Please refer this article to your preferred social media network.
A fairly common question I heard in the pantry line: “Are you working on or off?”
The first time I heard this question, I was confused. What did it mean? Actually, it referred to whether or not the person was paid in cash under the table or was paid money with withholding taken out.
Often the answer was something like: “I’ve got two days over at the food store and three days at Mrs. O……’s where I help her with her house and her office. I’m looking for a few more hours but it’s not happening.”
What this question asked was how many hours a person worked on the books and how many hours off the books. Not only was this practice illegal but it robbed workers of any benefit accrual and the opportunity to pay taxes.
Minimum wage paychecks simply don’t last a week. Individuals, families, entire households even can be employed and still live in poverty. My experience in the pantry was that more people in the pantry shopping line are employed than not.
I used to think of people as being employed or unemployed.
As I gained experience with the situation, I added another label: underemployed. So, rather than thinking in terms of employed or unemployed, I thought of hungry people in the line as being employed or underemployed.
I still see unemployed people but I realized many people aren’t paid a living wage.
I see shoppers where each person in the household works more than one job. The hope, dream, goal for many is simply to work enough hours and make enough money that a person can take a day off occasionally and have enough money to eat the following day.
People holding down more than one job often had trouble finding time to get to the Department of Social Services office to apply for SNAP (food stamps), although they might have qualified for the benefits.
Without a secure community safety net for the poor and destitute in our country, pantry volunteers needed to feed groceries weekly to families and households without money after they paid for rent and transportation to get to work.
Since the ’90s, many states have been “hell bent to Harry” to get people to work…no matter what. Welfare is no longer on the table.
A tip: Some people don’t realize our nation hasn’t offered much in the way of welfare in a long, long time. In polite conversation, I heard a statement: “That person shouldn’t be in your line. Her son has a job and she has a car.” I find it amazing that people in this country have been and continue to be comfortable denying assistance to the needy and destitute families while offering tax breaks to the wealthy.
My question was this: “How do people cope?”
Work first is not always a good option. I regularly saw pantry shoppers with family members who would be institutionalized if they weren’t being cared for by family. The institution is always the more expensive option.
The problem was that the family had nothing. So, while Helen or Sue or Fred was caring for the ill/disabled person, s/he wasn’t able to work.
Employment opportunities are a large part of the problem. People find themselves down and out in places with few job opportunities. Young people graduated from high school or college and can’t find a job anywhere.
Every economic downturn erases job opportunities. When the economy finally recovers, many jobs don’t return. Each recovery creates a class of citizens permanently living in the poverty of unemployment, underemployment, temporary employment, and day labor. Part time employment and being “on call” is a way of life.
The new group created after the downturn of 2008 had its own label: The Struggling Class.
Education costs are a factor. Fewer and fewer people can afford college or trade school. Some are afraid of the college loans they might not be able to pay off. One young woman in our food pantry line worked sixty hours weekly in low wage jobs to repay her college loan.
A fundamental attitude adjustment helped us realize food stamps, food pantries, soup kitchens, and shelters are no longer emergency concepts. They are the new way of life in the 21st century.
“I’m finished!” he blurted out. ” They fired me today!” I’ll never be able to get another job again. I’m too old!” Frightened reality covered his face when he entered the pantry for the first time. I didn’t say a word. I let him shout. He didn’t look or act as if he was going to hurt anyone and I felt he needed to release his anger.
I wanted his life to be easier than it was but what I wanted for him or any other shopper was nothing more than wishful thinking. There was little to nothing I could do. And, truthfully, I was helpless to do anything for him beyond offering a three-day-supply of food.
Every week after the first visit, he entered the pantry, shopped, and never made a sound. The mask of his face never changed.
Once the hair goes grey, it’s hard to compete in the market place. In a down economy, employers hire the younger applicants believing they’ll work harder for less money.
I hoped his unemployment would hold out until he could figure out how to get something more.
We all just left him alone. The pantry space was so small. It took him a year to calm down.
All we had was delicious, nutritious, food with a heavy emphasis on fresh vegetables and fruits. I relied on the food to make up for what we didn’t have.
I saw him recently – calm, maybe at peace with his situation. He lives in his truck, semi-homeless I suppose. He has places to bathe and sleep when he’s in Woodstock.
Woodstock attracts musicians. He’s one of those considered talented, this man. He’s found places to play around the area and he’s looking okay. What more can we all ask for anyway?
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A new book is coming soon! Please be on the lookout for Miracles!
“How much is an application for a gun permit?” I was the only cotton topped little old lady in the line at the Golden Hill government office in Kingston.
The counter person, an overweight man in his fifties, could hardly contain his laughter as he handed me the gun permit application. “That’ll be $5.00 please, miss.”
After handing him the money, I started to walk away. Then, turning back to him, I said pleasantly, “Will you sell me three more applications, please? A couple of the girls in my senior yoga class asked me to get applications for them, too.”
Pulling out $15.00 more, I put the money on the counter. The man gave me three more gun applications and I walked away. I had no idea who was going to receive them and I didn’t attend any senior yoga class but I remembered the old “Alice’s Restaurant” song about three people doing something and being part of a movement.
Things in the pantry were negative and confrontational since the first day I drove up with fresh produce for the hungry people shopping in the pantry. In the beginning, I tried to hide things and overlook the situation. Frankly, I hoped the negativity would just go away. And, of course, I was mistaken. Situations like that don’t just evaporate. People don’t just change. And now, I was beginning to tire of the whole situation. I’d been living with fear for years and was feeling like it was time to try to fix things.
Maybe a gun will help, I thought.
When I got home, Barry was sitting on the sofa, surrounded by his cats, Fizzle and Carrots, as he read his latest thriller.
“Hi, honey. How’s your day going?” Without looking up, he took a few grapes from a large fruit filled bowl on a table by the sofa.
“Here’s the application for the gun permit I just got. I want you to teach me to shoot a gun.”
“You can do it. You didn’t spend all those years sneaking off to the CIA without knowing how to use a gun. They even gave you a medal or something. For all I know, you’re a damn bazooka expert. Maybe I want to learn that, too!”
“You can’t do that! You might shoot one of the Chihuahuas.”
“Well, I’m tired of asking pantry volunteers to be bodyguards. It’s not safe when I’m working after hours at the pantry. And, I’m not one bit afraid of the shoppers.”
“Listen, I know your job is difficult. Not even a Marine drill sergeant would do what you’re doing. But, I don’t know about a gun.”
“That Mag-Lite I bought a while back just isn’t what I need. A gun is more powerful and I’ve lived with them my whole life. My grandmother kept a rifle in her bathroom.”
“T.G. you’re just not the gun type. I’ll teach you to use a knife. A good knife won’t cost as much as a gun and you won’t need a permit. You won’t need to buy bullets. There’s nothing to clean unless you stab someone. It’ll be easier to use and carry. I’ll give you some lessons. Nobody will ever know. It’ll be our secret. Leash up the Chihuahuas. We’re going to Warren Cutlery in Rhineback.”
And so he did. He took me to Warren Cutlery where there was a generous selection of knives. We went into the knife room which included stock for kitchens as well as other knives not designed to slice and chop onions. I stood in front of the case. “Which knife are you interested in?” The clerk spoke to me as though showing weapons to a cotton topped old lady was the most boring thing he did all day. And, maybe it was.
“I’d like to see the one over there with the four-inch blade, please.” I held it in my hand and then asked to see several more on display in the case. Barry walked over to the case, stood beside me, and saw the knife I held in my hand.
“That knife is too big and too heavy.” he said, pointing to a smaller model. “You need something you can carry in your purse and you need something you can open rapidly. If you’re too slow, your attacker will have you down before you get it open.”
So, I chose a smaller, lighter model that happened to be on sale.
Barry paid the bill, and off we went.
He did just what he said he would. He taught me how to open a knife quickly but never bothered teaching me to close it.
And, he was correct. A knife is quiet. It weighs less than a gun. There’s no need for a permit. The Chihuahuas won’t get shot. And, unless I go through a metal detector before I take it out of my purse, no one has a clue.
Before it was over, he bought me a second knife which I kept open on the pantry counter next to the large Mag-Lite, ostensibly to open the cardboard boxes.
Woodstock, New York
Thank you for reading this story. It is, for now, the first chapter in “The Ketchup Sandwich Chronicles.”
Please share this post with your favorite social media network.
Thank you in advance for standing with the hungry, believing in the dignity and humanity of those in the pantry, and for joining in the solution.
2019 is still new and I’m beginning the year with a new story: “The Ketchup Sandwich Chronicles”.
Throughout the coming year, chapters from this new book will appear as the book develops and becomes its own entity. Thank you in advance for reading them.
It’s time for the chapters to each find a place in the story. So, when you read them, you make this chronicle a reality.
Thank you for making this work possible.
Woodstock, New York
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The first chapter, “I Need a Gun” will be posted in the next few days. I sincerely hope you’ll like it. – TG
In the spirit of the holiday, I want to thank each of you for supporting my work and following the story of hungry people in America. This has been a busy year for me and, without your support, none of this year would have been possible. However you found my blog and the story of hungry people, whatever keeps you returning, I thank you.
This blog has existed since February, 2014. This year has been one of few posts.
Why? Well, “I Don’t Hang Out in Churches Anymore” finally published and I spend time now marketing and selling the book instead of writing and posting articles. Thank you for standing beside the hunger message this year. I pledge more and better articles in the coming year.
I discovered the Mower’s Meadow Flea Market in Woodstock, New York, where I had a booth on weekends for the summer and autumn. This is the perfect place for a book. People buy the book and return to the market to share their enthusiasm for the story. Thank you to everyone who has purchased a copy. I plan to return to this delightful place when it opens in May.
Each new reader and follower learns something from the story about hunger in America and each new reader inspires and motivates me to find new ways to share this hidden story. Thank you.
A second volume is on the way. I’m hopeful that “The Ketchup Sandwich Chronicles” will join “I Don’t Hang Out in Churches Anymore” on the book table at the flea market in 2019. There’s certainly room for another book about hunger in America. Thank you.
Thank you for reading the blog and the books. When you read them, we both learn more about hunger, a subject important to us all because there just shouldn’t be any hungry people in our country.
Woodstock, New York
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“Homeless is not a category of people. It’s just a situation that happens. It can happen to anyone.” – Salvador Altimarano-Segura
This article actually has eleven suggestions. There are many things we can all do for the homeless if we will open our hearts and minds to the many opportunities. Hopefully this list will inspire you!
ENCOURAGE affordable housing. Is someone in your area trying to build affordable housing? Support this effort. Fewer people would be homeless if more affordable housing were available.
DO YOU KNOW someone with a tight budget? Encourage him/her to visit a pantry regularly.
BARTER. As fewer and fewer people have money, barter is a good way to go.
SUPPORT BUSINESSES that treat their employees fairly. This means giving your business to companies that don’t short shift their workers, refuse to report their earnings to the IRS to avoid paying deductions, and/or withhold wages.
WORK TO SEE that schools in your area offer free universal school breakfasts and lunches for all.
BACKPACK PROGRAMS assure that children have food to eat over the weekend. Does your neighborhood school have one? If not, set one up.
DOES YOUR CHURCH, SYNAGOGUE, OR TEMPLE have a food pantry? Set one up.
GIVE GIFT CARDS FOR FOOD, GASOLINE (if they drive) or PHONE MINUTES. These cards are perfect gifts for someone on a tight budget. These cards are also perfect to be used for donations to a pantry or shelter, or soup kitchen.
OPEN A FOOD PANTRY in a college or trade school in your area. People don’t realize that homelessness is an issue with students.
GIVE A LITTLE THROUGHOUT THE YEAR by regularly donating food, money or gas cards to a homeless friendly pantry in your area.
TEACH! Do you have a skill to share? Contact a local shelter and offer to give classes.
Thanks for reading this article! Please refer it to your favorite social media network.
Woodstock, New YOrk
Ramen Noodles should be a choice.
Ramen Noodles should be a choice.
On a recent New York Subway ride, I stood in a crowded car bound for Flatbush, thinking about hungry people having only Ramen Noodles to eat because they had no money. Just then, an older black man near me spoke to everyone in the crowded car.
With a well modulated, practiced, articulate voice, this cotton top knew what he was doing. He talked about veterans and their needs. He obviously either wrote the speech because he was an excellent and experienced speech writer or he found himself such a person to do the job.
He ended his short presentation with a plea for money. And, wrapped up in this short talk was the realization that he was as much interested in consciousness raising as he was in collecting dimes and dollars. What he wanted, really, was for captive audience members in the metro car to hear his message, digest it, understand it, and act on it in some beneficial way.
This man’s message went right to my brain and my heart. What this old cotton top didn’t know was that we are on the same path. I, too, am on a mission of consciousness raising and fundraising. And, like him, I’m not doing this just for the fun of it. I’m on a mission to spread the word about a truly tragic and hidden horror in our country: hunger in America.
I want people in this country to have enough food in their lives so that Ramen Noodles should be a choice.
I sell books and T-shirts to raise money, give talks in libraries and church meeting halls. Finally, I work daily to interest you in the plight of hungry people of every age in our great nation who simply don’t have the money to buy food. Ramen Noodles should be a choice.
When you purchase my book, you help me feed the hungry. All the proceeds of “I Don’t Hang Out in Churches Anymore” go to buy food for hungry people who need it. Ramen noodles should be a choice.
Right now, because of the summer months, I’m donating peanut butter to hungry people. At other times in the year, the focus will be on different foods.
Peanut butter has many qualities which bring it to the top of my go-to list.
has a long shelf life.
doesn’t need refrigeration.
is a staple in a household with children.
can be eaten by people who have no teeth.
can be easily carried in the pocket or backpack of a homeless person.
In short, Ramen noodles should be a choice.
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Ramen Noodles should be a choice. Feed the hungry!
It’s OUT! It’s in print! The story has been told! And, you can get a copy. Today! Right now!
Simply go to thurmangreco.com and order it on paypal.
If you prefer, you can wait until next Wednesday, and get it on Amazon.
And, it’s beginning to appear in independent book stores.
What began as a project, guaranteed not to take no more than two hours a month has become a calling. And, as of this week, it’s become a non-profit seeking food and funds to feed the hungry.
It took more than five years of work. Reams and Reams of paper were used. Two computers blew up. One copier died of exhaustion.
Get the book, read it, and let me know how you feel about what you read.
And, please share this unbelievably exciting news.
And, watch for the T-shirts!
I’ve got a food drive going now. Please donate peanut butter. Locally, you can donate food, at 31 Tannery Brook, Woodstock.
Any and all food and funds you donate will go to a food pantry. You can send a check to Thurman Greco, 31 Tannery Brook, Woodstock, NY 12498. OR, you can make a donation via paypal. You can get to the paypal site by going to http://www.thurmangreco.com.
OR, you can give something directly to your local food pantry!
And, thank you in advance for understanding the situation and for sharing what you can with those who have less than you.
Help me FEED THE HUNGRY!
Peace and food for all.
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IT’S COMING SOON!
After countless reams of computer paper, dozens and dozens of writing classes, three computers and two copiers, the book about hunger is at the publisher’s!
And, I actually heard the word “done” today! I’m ecstatic beyond words!
Somebody else could have done it with only one computer disaster and one copier blow up. But, I never claimed to be a writer.
This endeavor took years. And, it was worth it. I felt this story needed to be told when I started writing it in 2013 and I’m sticking to my opinion. Hunger in America was then and is now a national event which needs to be shared.
A real Woodstock story, “I Don’t Hang Out in Churches Anymore” tells about the people in the pantry, channels my grandmother, and reveals a few miracles.
I’m proud to say that “I Don’t Hang Out in Churches Anymore” will, within days, be available in paperback and eBook editions on Amazon.
I am already scheduling book signings for this book. If you are in the area, I look forward to seeing you at one near you!
You can purchase this book by going to my website at http://www.thurmangreco.com.
Order your copy, and please share this unbelievably exciting news!
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