Hunger Is Not a Disease

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.”

Please share this post with your favorite social media network.

Author’s Note – “Ketchup Sandwich Chronicle”


“Ketchup Sandwich Chronicles” is about the spiritual journeys of pantry shoppers and volunteers experiencing hunger and incredible change as they traveled toward renewal and reclaimed lives. This story is, as yet, unknown to many people because hunger as it exists in food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, is still a taboo subject in our country.

Events and conversations in this book took place over a period of several years when I coordinated the Good Neighbor Food Pantry in Woodstock, New York.

Whenever possible/practical I reviewed material with people who helped reconstruct events, chronology, and dialogue. Based on these reviews and my own notes, some of these incidents were compressed, consolidated or reordered to accommodate memories of everyone consulted. This memoir was edited and rearranged over many drafts in an effort to be as accurate as possible.

All dialogue is based on my memory and the notes I took. The names of most of the characters (mainly, the shoppers) were changed. The names of some were omitted. Even so, there are no composite characters in this memoir.

If you read a sentence, page, paragraph or even a chapter that you feel is outrageous or untrue, it is nonetheless very real. Everything written in this book actually happened. It’s my story.

Peace and food for all.

Thurman Greco

Woodstock, New York

Thank you for reading this article. And, thank you in advance for reading this new book. I’ll be sharing it with you in the coming months. I hope you enjoy it. Please share it with your favorite social media network.

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

Please share this article with your friends and refer it to your preferred social media network.

10 Things You Can Do to Help the Homeless in Your Area

“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.

Thurman Greco
Woodstock, New YOrk

This was almost the last weekend.

There’s only one more weekend left at Mower’s Meadow Flea Market this year. I’ll be there the Saturday and Sunday after Thanksgiving and then that’ll be it for awhile. I understand the flea market doesn’t open weekends again until May.

Don’t quote me on that. I’m not sure. But, one thing I’m sure about: I plan to be there every weekend next season. The hunger book, the donation jar, and I plan to be at Mower’s Meadow Flea Market next season.

I was at a different spot at the flea market every weekend. And, I really enjoyed being there. The people at the other booths were friendly, open, and interested in my booth. I got many tips and tried them all. It was obvious to everyone that I really didn’t know much about flea market marketing. I still don’t know much but my booth presentation has definitely improved.

Thank you to each and every one who bought copies of “I Don’t Hang Out in Churches Anymore”. I doubt if “The Ketchup Sandwich Chronicles” will be available by then but I working on it every day.

The title “I Don’t Hang Out in Churches Anymore” was named by Cullen Thomas and it was well chosen. Many people who picked up the book on the table were bothered by the title because they didn’t understand it. However, it definitely attracted attention.

For those with questions, the title referred to an “unhoused” congregation serving people outside the sanctuary. And, the food pantry was definitely outside the boundary of the sanctuary. The food pantry was, in fact, in the basement.

This story isn’t about how to fix or save or change a church. Nor is it, really, a story about a church at all. In fact, it’s not a manual about anything. It’s a story about how I discovered hungry people in the basement of the building in a tiny food pantry in the corner room.

A memoir, this story tells the truth as I remember it.

If you haven’t had a chance to read this book, it’ll be available at thurmangreco.com during the winter unless I find an indoor weekend flea market that’s appropriate for a table of books and open on the weekend.

My goal is to offer Reiki therapy and tarot readings in addition to the books at the flea market in the future.

But, whether I offer Reiki and tarot or not, I plan to be at a table selling both “I Don’t Hang Out in Churches Anymore” and “Healer’s Handbook”. When “Ketchup Sandwich Chronicles” comes out, I’ll add it to the stack!

See you there!

Thurman Greco

Please refer this article to your preferred social media network.

Summer Came and Went. And a book signing…

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!

Thurman Greco

 

 

Seniors and Those Who Care for Them

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.

Thanks again for reading  this article.  Please share it with your favorite social media network.

 

A Politician Came to the House Today

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.

Thanks for reading this article!

Please refer this article to your preferred social media network.

Thurman Greco