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.”
“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.
Woodstock, New York
P.S. Please stay tuned for future chapters from my upcoming book “The Ketchup Sandwich Chronicles”.
DONATE FOOD TO A FOOD PANTRY
When you purchase groceries, buy a few extra jars or cans of food and take them to your neighborhood food pantry.
Peanut butter is my favorite choice. It’s shelf stable so needs no refrigeration. That makes it good for homeless people. It doesn’t spoil quickly so it can be used by a household with one or ten people. It doesn’t require a lot of chewing so it’s good for a person with no teeth. In short, peanut butter is a perfect food choice for a food pantry.
However, if you would rather choose another item, go with whatever you want to give. Whatever you choose, it will be selected by someone shopping in the pantry.
CLEAN OUT YOUR KITCHEN CABINETS
Give the unused items to your local food pantry.
HOST A FOOD DRIVE
Invite your friends and neighbors to help you collect food for your local food pantry.
DONATE CLEAN EGG CARTONS AND REUSABLE SHOPPING BAGS TO YOUR FOOD PANTRY.
Food pantries are always in need of shopping bags and egg cartons. Eggs coming to a food pantry usually come in cases – without the cartons.
Shopping bags are not usually found on food pantry shopping lists.
CLEAN OUT THAT CLOSET!
Take your gently used clothing and bedding to a pantry or soup kitchen for distribution. I recently learned that the clothing item most needed in shelters is socks.
I also learned that women’s shelters are always in need of bras.
In the Albany, New York, area, you can send gently used or new women’s bras to:
YWCA – Greater Capitol Region
21 First Street
Troy, New York 12180
CELEBRATE YOUR BIRTHDAY.
Invite people to a party and ask them to give donations to a food pantry instead of a gift.
GIVE A LITTLE THROUGHOUT THE YEAR.
Make a regular donation to a food pantry. This translates to sending a check or gas card every month or quarter.
CONTACT ELECTED OFFICIALS AND PERSONS OF INFLUENCE.
Motivate them to make ending hunger and homelessness a priority. Encourage them to support fair wages and benefits for workers.
READ A BOOK.
“Take This Bread” by Sara Miles, “Under the Overpass” by Mike Yankoski, “I am Your Neighbor” by David R. Brown and Roger Wright, and “I Don’t Hang Out in Churches Anymore” by Thurman Greco are four books which tell revealing stories about hungry people in America.
START A SCHOOL BACKPACK PROGRAM.
Backpack programs send food home on Friday afternoons to households where children would not otherwise eat over the weekend without the donated foods.
Thanks for reading this article! Please refer it to your preferred social media network.
Please join me.
You are invited to attend my Author’s Reading and book signing on Saturday morning, September 22nd at 10:00 am on the grounds of the Mower’s Meadow Flea Market.
Refreshments will be served.
School is starting. And, once again, the focus of my life has adjusted itself. Hunger takes us all to new places that we never thought we would go.
For me, I spent the past two years writing my hunger book. I felt as if I’d gone into a cave…a writer’s cave. And, of course, with all this time in the cave, the inevitable finally happened: a book signing.
I finished the book! Not only that, I’m working on the follow-on volume. But, that’s getting off message.
A book signing is always appropriate in September.
Where? I’m selling the book at the Mower’s Meadow Flea Market in Woodstock. Somehow, I feel this was the logical direction I was headed from the first day: a book signing.
I sell the book….and a lot more. While selling the book, people purchase other used books and gently used items to raise money for the hungry.
I’m selling items and collecting donations to buy peanut butter for a pantry which doesn’t have any on the shelves on the day I call the pantry. Why peanut butter?
Peanut butter doesn’t need refrigeration.
It can be eaten by people who no longer have teeth.
Peanut butter has a generous shelf life.
For homeless people, peanut butter is a staple.
But, getting back to the basics, people are dropping gently used items off at my home. I wash them, or dust them off, and otherwise freshen them up and then take them to Mower’s Meadow on Saturdays, Sundays, and Wednesdays.
The prices are reasonable. The items are really nice. People fighting hunger are being really generous.
Lucy and Erin made a wonderful banner for my booth so people know what’s happening in the booth.
Thank you for reading this blog post. Please refer it to your preferred social media network.
I look forward to seeing you at the Book Signing at 10:00 on the 22nd!