What does this photo have to do with hungry seniors and those who care for them? A lot, actually. This photo is a group of seniors getting food from the Reservoir Food Pantry in Boiceville, New York.
Carolina Gerard, an outreach intern from the National Council for Aging Care forwarded an article to me this week. It addresses some of the causes, complications, and cures for senior food insecurity. Can you take a moment to go to http://www.aginginplace.org/the-facts-behind-senior-hunger
I’m sure you will find it interesting and engaging.
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I got a visit from a politician today, asking for my vote.
I simply couldn’t help myself so I told him about the hungry in America. It was easy to talk about the one in seven seniors in our country who don’t have enough to eat. And I talked about the one in five children in our country who don’t have enough to eat either.
This young politician is interested in the welfare of Americans and talked a lot about health care and jobs and equal pay. He talked about funding for seniors and programs for seniors. He discussed everything but food. Frankly, there was not one mention of food.
And, I stood there and listened to the speech and just couldn’t stand it any more.
Until this young man really sees hunger for what it is, he’ll never know the real situation for what it is. It may be years (or maybe never) before he realizes how hard it is for the elderly to get food when their shoulders and knees don’t work, they no longer drive, and they live in a food desert.
Routinely, seniors choose between food and transportation, food and housing, food and health care.
Few know about food pantries and hunger unless they work and shop in one. Beyond that, a food pantry is hidden. People shopping in one certainly don’t tell anyone where they get their groceries. And, those working in one don’t talk much either.
Pantry food distributed to families helps children learn better in school and help their parents work harder at the many jobs they hold down.
When people come to a pantry, they can forget for a while their situation often means they pay more for what they get if they live in a food desert. And that, at times, they simply get less because the food may not be available in their neighborhood.
Often, they do without if they have no access to fresh fruits and vegetables. Instead, they go through the pantry line and leave with foods they could not otherwise buy.
On behalf of everyone who shops or volunteers at a food pantry, I offer gratitude for the wonderful food available to the many hungry people who need it.
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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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The truth is that food pantries are not perfect. Not anywhere near perfect, actually. And, they never will be. How can they be near perfect when there is often not enough food in the pantry to feed the many people shopping there?
But, they get to be as near to perfection as they do because the people who work in them are often retired, elderly volunteers who really care and have the time to put in extra effort.
And, how can they be perfect when the food is mostly donated food that was on its way to the landfill before some enterprising person snapped it up for the hungry people in the line?
And, the truth is that food pantries, to a certain extent, are neighbors helping neighbors. This is a wonderful attitude.
The positive energy is exhibited in this sharing wonderful world, indeed. Without these wonderful people and their generous attitudes, people would be starving in this great nation of ours. Food pantries are our first line of defense against hunger.
But, often these food pantries which depend to a great extent on the generosity of individuals simply don’t have enough food. Insufficient is the word used.
Because there is little oversight, there is little control. So, a person shopping at a pantry may get enough to eat or may not. The quality of the food has little oversight. So, the person shopping may be getting food which is all out-of-date, or which is food which cannot be eaten by the person needing the food.
An example of this is the person without teeth. People without teeth are very restricted in what they can take because they can’t chew many foods.
Another example is the diabetic person who can only eat certain types of food without health problems.
And, all quality issues aside, there may simply be insufficient food in the pantry to feed the number of people shopping even though a pantry is the first line of defense against hunger.
Personally, in the Good Neighbor Food Pantry, I had a morning when I ran out of food. I simply didn’t have enough food to give to the people. This was an experience I’ll never forget.
Finally, the Hunger Prevention Nutrition Assistance Program people sent down guidelines requiring that pantries serve a three-day-supply of food for each person in the household. HPNAP guidelines required that pantries serve fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables. Pantries were asked to serve whole grain breads and low-fat milk.
This was a wonderful thing which I applauded enthusiastically when I learned about the guideline. However, it was challenging to the many pantries without freezers and refrigerators.
The truth is that pantries everywhere simply don’t have enough food to meet the demand.
What can we do about this? For starters, we can realize that pantries are our first line of defense against hunger in this country.
Then, we can follow up this realization with food donations throughout the year.
One can of something every week helps over time. Find a pantry and give to help those in need. Do you plant a garden in the summer? Add a row for your pantry!
Thank you for what you are doing for those in need.
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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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.
Thank you for reading this article!
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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!
Starving seniors? Is that too harsh a word?
Let’s ratchet it down: hungry.
Or, maybe: food insecure. Yeah, that’s better. It sounds better anyway.
Call it what you want, the event is the same. It’s your grandmother or grandfather (or me…I’m certainly a grandmother) caught in a situation where there’s simply not enough food in the house.
Seniors living on Social Security are finding themselves routinely choose between food and medicine, food and transportation. When they need new clothes, seniors regularly shop at the boutique of the closet.
The issues with seniors and food insecurity are serious because when seniors no longer have the money to buy the food they need for proper nutrition or why they can no longer buy the medicines they need, they become ill and finally end up being cared for by their children or they end up in a nursing home.
I know many stories about:
The older woman in Woodstock living on mashed potatoes.
The older woman in Bearsville who ended up in a nursing home when she was cut off from her pantry take out food and didn’t have the resources or physical ability to get to a grocery store.
The older man who doesn’t have enough money for food and is slowly starving to death.
There is food available for all these people
if they can get to a pantry
if they can connect with a pantry offering take out food
if they can sign up for SNAP (food stamps).
I recently spoke with a retired friend. “Richard, do you get SNAP?”
“Why Richard? SNAP is usually easy to get. All you have to do is apply.”
“Well, I’m getting by without it. Let someone else, needier than me, get the money.”
“Richard, think about getting SNAP. This is something you paid for with your taxes. Why leave money on the table?”
I haven’t convinced him yet. However, we’re not through negotiating. As seniors, we’re in a situation where every little bit helps.
The barriers to SNAP for seniors are great. Seniors resist going to a pantry, soup kitchen, getting SNAP until they simply can’t resist any longer. I know the feeling. We grew up as children and went into adulthood feeling that if we worked hard and paid our taxes, we would end up okay. We worked all our lives believing this. And now, there simply isn’t enough.
With this event comes feelings of inadequacy and self blame. “I must have done something wrong. Here I am living hand-to-mouth. I don’t even have enough money for food. What did I do wrong?”
I don’t like a whole generation of people blaming themselves. I feel we’re not totally to blame. The rules have changed. Because we’re retired, we’re not in the rules making game anymore. Retirees are somewhat disempowered. Whatever happened to the Grey Panthers?
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The new memoir about hunger in America will soon be available! I’ll keep you in the loop.
Thanks again for your support!