Hunger Is Not a Disease

Writing this Blog Post was Risky

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.

Thank you for reading this blog post.  Please refer it to your favorite social media network.

Thurman Greco

It’s Vacation Time!

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.

Thurman Greco

Are You Working On or Off?

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.

BEN

“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?

Thurman Greco

Thank you for reading this blog post. Please refer it to your favorite social media network.

Thurman

A new book is coming soon! Please be on the lookout for Miracles!

Thanks again!


My Search – The Food Pantry Needs a Refrigerator – “The Ketchup Sandwich Chronicles”

The pantry had a refrigerator and I needed a place to put it. But, to begin at the beginning, the food pantry had hungry people wanting and needing the hundreds of dozens of eggs we got from the food bank and Aldi’s.

Pantry volunteers needed a place to store the eggs before we distributed them. Where, oh where, could I put the refrigerator?

Early on pantry day, when I packed eggs in my car, nothing much else fit. Reusable shopping bags filled with eggs were in the rear hatch, on the seats, and on the floor. I felt like I was driving an egg mobile instead of a Prius. The only negative was refrigeration.

Each new food group added to the pantry shelves changed the dynamic, the pace of shopping in the room. Eggs were a huge addition. They were cheap. They didn’t take up much space but packed a nutritional punch. They were easy to cook. They were in big demand every time they were available in the pantry.

At the Food Bank of Northeastern New York in Latham I bought thirteen cases of loose eggs at a time whenever I could get them. When food bank stock was depleted, I bought over a hundred dozen eggs at a time at Aldi, a food store located at 767 East Chester Street in Kingston, across the road from Prestige Toyota. Aldi was the only local store willing to sell eggs to the pantry.

I tried to buy eggs at local farms and at Adams Fairacre, ShopRite, and Hannaford’s in Kingston. Nobody would sell eggs to the pantry because over a hundred dozen eggs were just too many and the pantry need wasn’t steady enough.

Aldi didn’t mind though. The store manager kept hundreds of dozens of eggs behind the glass door of a refrigerator case on the back wall of the store. All I had to do was open the door, wheel out the egg trolley, and load all the eggs I needed in large, reusable shopping bags which I brought with me. It took four shopping carts to get the loaded eggs to the checkout clerk.

I spent several months quietly searching for the refrigerator space I needed. I had a refrigerator and I just needed a place to put it. Then I got serious. I began with the church.

“Pastor, the pantry needs a refrigerator for eggs.”

“The pantry room is too small and the building committee won’t allow it.”

Next, I called around Woodstock from a list I’d made of people who might be willing to help me out. After the pastor, the Town Supervisor was top of the list. I was on his election committee when he successfully ran for office.

“Hi. I’m looking for refrigerator space for the pantry. Can I put one in the Community Center kitchen? I’ll donate it to the town. I just want to use it one day each week for eggs.”

“No.”

“Thanks.” Well, I thought, it’s a good thing I made a list!

I knew Woodstock Democratic Committee members. One was even on the Woodstock Town Board.

“I’m looking for refrigerator space for the pantry. I’ve got the refrigerator, I just want to use it one day a week for eggs. Do you know someplace in town where we can put one?”

“I’ll ask around and see what I can find.”

“How about Town Hall? There’s a large empty room there.”

“That won’t work. We’re going to renovate that building.”

My list is getting me nowhere fast, I thought.

At the end of the church parking lot stood a long, dirt floored, unpainted, rattlety trap building, a storage space for the popular Woodstock Village Green Bed and Breakfast. If I could get a corner in that old barn, I could put a refrigerator on a pallet. Dare I hope? I didn’t know the owners personally, but there didn’t seem to be any other options. So, I picked up the phone and called.

“I’m wondering if the pantry can rent a little corner of your barn for a refrigerator. I’m desperate for a place to store eggs. I’ve asked everyone and you are my absolute last hope.”

I might be able to pull this one off, I thought. When the pantry inspectors come, I just won’t mention the barn. I had to rely on food bank inspectors looking the other way and not asking about the food bank eggs.

One of the owners called back. “We can do this and there won’t be any charge.”

“Thanks. You’re going to heaven for this.”

“The refrigerator in the barn worked fine. Volunteers distributed eggs to shoppers on pantry day. Over time, local residents donated refrigerators and freezers.

Shopper census rose until we outgrew our small storage closet in the hallway.

“I need space Pastor. If you can’t spare a room for the pantry, I’ll just have to ask volunteers to bring the next shipment to my home where I’ll put it in my healing space. This is our biggest shipment yet, 3,000 pounds. The food is coming in.”

Each monthly shipment from the food bank up to this point had totaled less than 2,000 pounds. Pastor appealed to his consistory and the building committee. Word on the street was that many meetings followed and the pantry finally got, somehow, permission, maybe, to use the room at the end of the hall.

Food delivery day arrived and volunteers put food in the room. As they brought boxes into the room, I looked around. Nobody was there at the moment. The universe is on my side, I thought.

I hurried upstairs to the church office where I found the secretary. “We’re so happy to be able to store food in the room. Do you think it’ll be okay to bring a refrigerator in? This would mean we can keep eggs in the storeroom.”

Slowly, she smiled. “Sure, bring it in.”

Within minutes after I spoke with her, two men carried a refrigerator to the store room. “Put it against this wall,” I said, pointing to the one place where it would be least obvious.

At the end of the morning, building committee members inspecting the new storeroom saw a room full of food and a refrigerator filled with eggs. They were not happy.

I thought the pastor’s secretary was the number two person in the church so I went with her okay. The expressions on their faces taught me that the only people with any authority in that church were the building committee members.

From that morning on, pantry volunteers filled the stockroom to capacity with the food we got from the food bank. The refrigerator hummed along as we stacked eggs on every shelf in it weekly.

I don’t think I got permission to use the room permanently. It was a squatter’s rights kind of thing. Once I got the food in there, they couldn’t get me out. Before it was all over, the pantry received shipments every month exceeding 12,000 pounds.

The storeroom was a wonderful addition to the pantry. We routinely ordered food for advance needs during lean months and the refrigerator stored eggs.

The storeroom made all the difference.

Same with the barn. The dirt (mud when it rained) floor was permanently covered with flattened cardboard boxes and the refrigerators and freezers were stacked on pallets.

Was I wrong to have been so pushy?

Well, I don’t think so. I did make one mistake, though. I should have moved all the refrigerators and freezers into the storeroom that morning.

There were enough outlets.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for reading this article. Please share it with your favorite social media network.

Thurman Greco

Woodstock, New York

P.S. Please stay tuned for future chapters from my upcoming book “The Ketchup Sandwich Chronicles”.

I Need a Gun – “Ketchup Sandwich Chronicles” – Hunger is not a Disease

“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.”
“What!?”
“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.

Thurman Greco

Woodstock, New York

Thank you for reading this story. It is, for now, the first chapter in “The Ketchup Sandwich Chronicles.”

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Thank You From Hunger is Not a Disease

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.

Thurman Greco
Woodstock, New York

Please share this post and its follow on chronicle chapters with your favorite social media network.

The first chapter, “I Need a Gun” will be posted in the next few days. I sincerely hope you’ll like it. – TG

A Holiday Thank You Dear Reader

Dear Reader

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.

Thank you

Thurman Greco
Woodstock, New York

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Winter Solstice Meditation – December 21, 2018

Find a quiet place where you can feel protected when you begin this Winter Solstice Meditation.

Calm yourself. Center yourself. Begin this Winter Solstice Meditation with a long, slow, breathing pattern as you breathe out negativity, problems, stress and breathe in peace, positive thoughts and beauty.

As you breathe in and breathe out for a few moments, you will become calmer and more grounded.

The Winter Solstice is a turning point of the year, a time of re-birth and a new beginning for all life on Planet Earth. This Winter Solstice turning point brings new energy.

May all life on Planet Earth use our new energy for peace.

May all life on Planet Earth use our new energy to know we are connected and to reclaim our awareness.

May all life on Planet Earth use our new energy to work together to deepen the understanding between every being and the natural world surrounding us.

May all life on Planet Earth use our new energy to foster mutual respect and work together focused on harmony.

May all life on Planet Earth be blessed with abundance and enough food.

May all life on Planet Earth be blessed with appropriate housing and be free from fear.

Sit quietly with this meditation and its energy for a few moments.

When you are ready to end this meditation, move your muscles gently as you return to your surroundings.

You may regain the energy of the re-birth of the Winter Solstice whenever you want.

Thank you for participating in this meditation.

Thurman Greco

Woodstock, New York

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Please share this meditation with everyone you know.

Tom Pacheco Performs Peace Concert December 15th

Tom Pacheco, a local and extraordinary songwriter and singer/guitarist will perform his annual December Peace Concert along with Brian Hollander at 8:00 pm on Saturday, December 15th at the Rosendale Café, 434 Main Street, Rosendale.

Tom Pacheco is a much loved performer who writes poetically beautiful songs. He tells stories of life in a penetrating style which sends a message about fighting for the truth. He and Brian Hollander have played together many times at concerts in the area.
Tom Pacheco is also a personal hero of mine. His support of the food pantry as we served hungry people went beyond words. On two separate occasions, Tom Pacheco played concerts with all proceeds going to feed hungry people.

The Rosendale Café doesn’t take reservations but serves fine vegetarian food. For more information, see rosendalecafe.com or call 845-658-9048.

Tom has his own chapter in this book because of the work he did to bring food to the pantry to feed the hungry.

Thank you for reading this article. Please refer it to your favorite social media network.

Please tell all your friends, relatives, neighbors about this concert.

Thank you

Thurman Greco

Woodstock, New York

Thank You, Supporters, For All You Gave

The Mowers Meadow Flea Market is closed for the year and I want to thank you, every one, for all you gave and all you will continue to give for those less fortunate. I use the phrase “all those less” because I know you are givers and givers give and give. You make the world go around. Without you and your generous spirit, our planet would be a much different place.

With every blouse, book, and toy you gave, with every hour you spent finding the things to give, with every story you shared and with every social media post you “liked” you brought us all one step closer to living in a better world.

With every donation you stuffed in the donation jar, with every book you bought and every shirt, coat, handbag, pair of shoes you took away, you brought us to an anonymous donation I made – twice.

Working together, made a difference in someone’s life. We came one step closer to ending hunger for those in need.

For that, I am truly, deeply, profoundly grateful.

I look forward to seeing you in the spring!

Thank you

Again