Hunger Is Not a Disease

It’s Food Drive Time!

This is the season for a food drive! It’s food drive time!

Food drives are important in the spring and early summer because food pantry shelves are depleted now.  Storerooms are empty.  The emptiness will continue from now until the fall.

It’s food drive time!

Food pantries everywhere are trying to build their stocks up for the worst month of the year:  August.

So, now is a really good time for you to put on your generous hat and donate food to your food pantry!  There are a couple of ways to do this.

You can clean out your kitchen shelves and give the food you know you are never going to use to a nearby food pantry.  That’s an easy, and tried-and-true way to donate food.  But, if you want to get creative, there are other ways to go about donating food to a food pantry.

Do you have a birthday or anniversary coming up?  Invite everyone you know to a party celebrating your birthday or anniversary and ask everyone to bring  food for a food pantry instead of a gift.

Have a food drive where you ask someone in a group you belong to for donations.  This can be pretty easy.  You can have a work food drive or a school food drive or a church group food drive.  It really doesn’t matter what the group is.  What matters is that you and a group of your co-workers get together and give food to a food pantry to feed hungry people.

When you are planning a food drive, don’t forget that pantries are in need of items of dignity.  Now might be a good time to hold an Item of Dignity drive.  People are always looking for toothbrushes, toilet paper, razors, tampons.

It’s a Miracle!

This article was written back in 2013 when we got Miriam’s Well up and running.  I’m sharing this event with you.

Enjoy!

Lord,

When we drive Miriam’s Well up to the apartment complex, children gather round.  Their mothers shop for food.

Lord, I’m so grateful for this truck.  It took us exactly thirty-four minutes to design Miriam’s Well at the meeting in my healing space.  It took us exactly two weeks to get her together.  This truck is a miracle, Lord.  When You work a miracle, You arrange for things to work perfectly.  I love the perfection of this plan!

We put food in the back of Miriam’s Well, take it to Woodstock Commons, Woodstock Meadows, to the grounds at St. Gregory’s, and over to Tongore Pines, where the people come to shop.

There are no long lines, Lord.  There are no waits.  People just come to Miriam’s Well, get the groceries they need, visit with one another, and go home to wherever or whatever that is, with the food they need.

Dignity, smiles, positive thoughts, uplifting events.  The whole scene is reminiscent of a time at a village well in a Bible story.  That’s why we named her Miriam’s Well.

Only You could have done this Lord.  You guided our hands, hearts, minds through the entire project.

How can we ever thank You enough Lord?

Amen

Thanks for reading this article!

Please refer this post to your favorite social media network.

P S – The manuscript has gone to the publisher.  I look forward to sharing this story with you in the coming weeks.  Thanks so much for your interest!

Thurman Greco

The Big Picture

Lord,

As I work in the pantry week after week, I encounter problems.

There is not enough food, not enough space for the food we have, and not enough time to feed the hungry.

There are too many hungry shoppers, too many cars in the parking lot, too many cases of fresh fruits and vegetables, and too many cardboard boxes.

And, as I listen to the car radio when I drive back and forth to Latham on Fridays, I’m aware that I, like those around me, am concerned with problems and challenges in my own small, personal universe.

You, Lord,  see the big picture.  You see everyone’s problems and issues.  You take everyone’s world and make it all work somehow.  What we have, as humans, is a stew.  You have us all together in this universal stewpot.  In the Army, Lord, there’s a name for it:  Mongolian Stew

You are beyond all of us in scope and size.  Somehow, you stoop down and get in the stewpot with all of us and get involved in our details as You take on our problems.

Through your vision and wisdom, You see the needs of everyone and You send us love, kindness, and miracles.  You take the troubles off our shoulders.

Help me Lord, surrender to Your kindness, love, wisdom.

Help me just give the pantry over to you 100%.  Help me turn the problems of the building, the hungry, the volunteers, the church, the community, over to you.  You do the perfect job of problem solving.  After all, you are the God to whom we all pray.

How can I do anything less?  When I do this, Lord, I’ll walk in love, with a strong heart, and a solid faith.  I’ll receive a spiritual awakening.  This will bring glory to you.

Amen

The manuscript for the memoir will go to the publisher on Tuesday, January 9th!  I’m ecstatic!  I’m excited!

Thank you for reading this blog post.  Please share it with your preferred social media network.

Thank you

Thurman Greco

Caring Hands

Kingston, New York is a rapidly gentrifying and trendy  trendy little town in New York State.   Almost every day I see new neighbors in this community.  They’ve found just the perfect weekend apartment and are ecstatically, euphorically furnishing it with just the perfect finds.  In short, they are in love with Kingston!

In their giddiness, they have may not have  yet noticed the Caring Hands Food Pantry and Soup Kitchen.  Or maybe they have.  Maybe they see that one of the most important  things about Kingston is that the residents care for one another.  This attitude helps make Kingston what it is – a community we all want to be part of.

2017 is turning out to be  a tough year for food pantries in general and Caring Hands Food Pantry in Kingston, New York in particular.  But, Caring Hands isn’t just a food pantry.  It’s a soup kitchen, and a warming center with a recovery and twelve-step program.  As if that’s not enough, they’ve got  a free legal clinic, too.

Volunteers at Caring Hands, under the direction of the Rev. Darlene L. Kelley at the Clinton Avenue Methodist Church, work hard as they put their beliefs into action daily.  Almost 600 meals are served weekly in the soup kitchen.  Over 3,000 households   receive groceries monthly.

Children, the elderly, families, veterans, and the ill are all welcome at Caring Hands.  The goal is to help people in need help themselves.  The message of God’s transforming love is spread throughout the community from the Clinton Avenue Methodist Church as it ripples out in waves.

It is easy for you to be a part of this message.  You don’t have to move to Kingston.  You don’t have to attend the church there.  You don’t even have to know anyone in the area.  All you need to do is give a little … or a lot … of whatever you can share.

  1.  Sending a check always helps.  Caring Hands always needs money.
  2.  Sending a gift certificate always helps, too.  Did someone give  you  a gift certificate that  that you’ll probably never use?  Well, now is a good time to use it.  Send it on over.
  3. Extra time is extremely valuable.  If you live in the area, you can be a part of this  miracle when you volunteer.  Your gift of presence will be greatly appreciated.
  4. Hold a food drive.  Gifts of food are always, always needed.  If you don’t live in the area, hold a food drive anyway and donate the cans and boxes of food to a food pantry in your area.
  5. Call an elected representative  and lobby for the poor and hungry in your area.  Persuade this elected official to be generous with funds for those around us who do not have everything they need to live a healthy life.
  6. Your prayers and kind thoughts are always welcome.  Those at Caring Hands as well as at other food pantries throughout our country are working hard to bring food and love to a broken community.  They need your support.

Caring Hands has a mailing address to send your check and/or  gift certificates:  CARING HANDS

c/o THE CLINTON AVENUE UMC

P. O. Box 1099

Kingston, New York 12402.

Thank you for reading this blog post.  Hopefully you’ll share it with your favorite social media outlet.

With this blog posted article comes an apology for not having posted often enough in the past months.  This doesn’t mean that I don’t care or that I’m no longer interested in hunger.  To the contrary.  I’m deeply involved in bringing my next book to my publisher.  And, it’s about hunger in America.

Thurman Greco

Another Year Has Begun Again

Another year has begun again.  (And, far too quickly, too.)

As I begin another year fighting hunger, God, my time with the pantry is in your hands.

Give me patience again, O God.  And let me remember that it’s my job to offer the best, most delicious, nutritious food I can find for the hungry.

It is not my job to end hunger.  Let me remember, God, that you have your own timetable.

As a year begins give me  wisdom and grace to serve the hungry with respect and honor…which they deserve.  Give me energy and strength to trust that those who have enough will continue to give so we will have the money to continue to feed the hungry as long as we need to.

Donations to the food bank have worked beautifully up to now, God.  Give me the strength to trust the system to work in the new year too.  Let me trust in the miracles of this system.

And, God, thank you for giving me comfort when I grow discouraged.  Forgive me for not being stronger.

Thank you for giving the money, volunteers, and resources the pantry needs to continue to feed the ever increasing number of people whose paychecks are not going up but their gasoline, rent, and food costs are rising.

Thank you for the miracles you give us daily.

I say these things in your name and with gratitude from the bottom of my heart, O God.

Amen

Thank you for reading this blog post!

Please refer this prayer to your favorite social media network.

This prayer is one of a series of entries I’m writing to go in a memoir about hunger.  It will be entitled “I Don’t Hang Out In Churches  Anymore – the story of hunger as told through prayer”.

Thurman Greco

A Holiday Gone Wrong

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“When we talk cooking and eating, we are talking love, since the entire history of how a family loves – when and how they learned to love – can be told in most kitchens.” – Marion Roach Smith

The first year a person uses a food pantry for primary shopping, Christmas is a holiday gone wrong.  After several years, Christmas becomes whatever the household can make of it.  The adjustment is, for some, difficult and for others more difficult.

The difficulty lies, mostly, in the ability to get food items considered “traditional” by a household when no money is available to purchase them in a grocery store.

Once, I heard some pantry shoppers talking in the line about holidays past.  Their conversation centered around people celebrating by eating too much delicious food and visiting  with relatives, friends, neighbors while swapping stories, catching up on the news.

For more and more people living in poverty, this just doesn’t happen.  Both households and individuals find themselves unable to finance the expense of the holiday event.

Not only can they not afford the food, more and more people no longer have the table to sit at, the chairs to sit on, and the stove to cook the food.  Recipes, pots and pans, china, silverware, crystal are long since gone.  Eating without a kitchen is the way of the modern household living on a minimum wage.

With luck, today’s struggling class household will have the gas to get the car to a soup kitchen.  Otherwise, it’s going to be a regular day with a meal prepared in a crock pot, or on a hot plate.  The economic situation for some is that just to take the day off and still be able to buy groceries the next day is more a goal than anything else.

Realities faced by the hungry pantry shopper weigh on my shoulders every day of the year.  This weight keeps me squirreling away food so the pantry shelves can be stocked for celebrations with canned soup, canned gravy, potatoes, stuffing mix, canned green beans, cranberry sauce, chicken broth and all the fruits and vegetables that can be gotten at food drives and the food bank.  Storeroom space and a few freezers at the food pantry are essential.

Pantry volunteers have a difficult time just keeping up with the ever increasing client census.  Those with a stable shopper base, a large storeroom and connections can begin scrounging in  July to set aside food.  It’s extremely challenging to get several hundred or a thousand of an item in the summer and store the food until December.

After several years and several holidays, the food gatherer in the household becomes, if time allows, more skilled at scrounging for food in both the pantry and the grocery store.  The difficulty lies, mostly, in the ability to get food items considered “traditional” by a household when no money is available to purchase the items in a supermarket.

While distributing food, I mentally predict who’s going to be successful at scrounging and gathering by the sound of the automobile as it’s driven into the parking lot of the pantry.   A successful holiday dinner depends on a working automobile, time available between jobs, and the energy to sustain the search.

Transportation challenges, disabilities, and serious illness in the family can defeat all efforts.

Thank you for reading this article.

Please share this story with your preferred social media network.

Thurman Greco

Woodstock, NY

Book Update:  “A Healer’s Handbook” has been published and is available on Nook and Kindle!  It will be available in the paper version in early January.  If you order it now, it will be mailed directly to you upon publication.

More information about this book can be found on Thurmangreco.com.

Publication of “The Unworthy Hungry” is now scheduled for January 2018.

Thank you for your support and your patience.  Now that “Healer’s Handbook” has been published, there will be more frequent and regularly published articles on all blogs.

Thanks Again

Ho Hum – Just Another Miracle

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No question about it, miracles do happen.  Maybe you don’t believe in miracles.  I do.  I was in denial for the longest time.  But, after awhile, I had to face reality.  There were simply too many coincidences:

One September pantry day a few years ago the lines were longer than usual and the shelves were emptying out fast.  “I think we’re going to run out of food” I mentioned under my breath to Marie Duane, a volunteer from St. Gregory’s Episcopal Church.

“Do we have a plan for this kind of event?” I asked myself.

Then, to quote the Reverend Mike Huckabee, “God showed up.”

I know this statement is  applicable here because  the moment I began muttering under my breath, it was  as if someone had blown a whistle.  A red haired woman drove up in a tan SUV filled with bags and bags of food she collected from Congregation Agudas Achim in Kingston.  Harriet Kazansky unloaded enough canned and boxed food to get us through the day with some food left over!

One December, the Wednesday after Christmas, to be exact, John Mower drove up with a car trunk filled with canned vegetables for the pantry.  What a gift!  Our pantry was completely bare that December.  Then, the next day, along came another trunk load.  He finally quit after three trips to the pantry.  He filled the shelves for the next pantry day.

One Tuesday morning in the pantry, Peggy Johnson was upset because she didn’t have enough food to prepare the take out bags for the fourteen families she delivered food to every week.  Food had been scarce and this week the take out area seemed  empty.  A large man suddenly walked in the door carrying an extremely large box filled with canned and boxed food.  A Kingston fireman who grew up in the Woodstock area, he made Peggy promise to never reveal his name.  However, she didn’t have to keep his gift a secret:  in one trip down the pantry hallway, carrying a box large enough to hold everything needed, he single handedly provided all the food for the home bound families that week.  Our pantry has never heard from him since.

In the pantry hallway, we had an Item of Dignity closet.  where shoppers could take a roll of toilet paper and one other item each time they shopped.  We were forbidden by the building committee to have clothing in this closet.

One Wednesday afternoon I noticed a pair of new boots.  I have no idea where they came from.  They certainly didn’t come in disguised as deodorant or shampoo.  Anyway, Prasida needed a pair of winter boots.  One of the volunteers took them off the shelf.

“Prasida, can you wear wear these boots?”  Prasida came over to the closet, looked them over, and put them on.

“Ahhh – a perfect fit!  Thank you Amma!  Now I won’t have cold feet this winter in my summer sandals.”

At one point, I was reading Doreen Virtue’s book “Archangels and Ascended Masters”.  One night I read about Saint Therese, also known as the Little Flower.  The story goes that if one prays to St. Therese, she will send a rose as a sign that the request has been heard.  The next day, I found a rose on the pantry floor as I walked into the room.

But, the real miracle happened repeatedly in the pantry as the shoppers and volunteers both began to heal and change and grow from the community, their commitment, and the experiences in the pantry.  When people first started coming to the pantry, either to volunteer or shop, they were focused inward on their own problems, issues, health.  After a short time, they began to focus on their friends in the pantry.  They became concerned about something bigger than themselves and their private struggles.

In short…they became new.

Thanks for reading this blog/book.  The stories are true.  The people are real.

Please share this article with your preferred social network.

The book is still in progress!  It’s going to happen!

 

Making the Most of What You Get at the Food Pantry

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More and more pantries offer fresh vegetables and fruits. A challenge sometimes is making it last when it gets to your kitchen. Following are a few tips to help keep the food better. Even though it’s only going to be around for a day or two before you eat it, you want it to look its best, taste its best, and have the most nutrients possible.

FRESH FRUITS AND VEGETABLES
Store LETTUCE, SALAD GREENS, and MUSHROOMS in a refrigerator on the middle or lower shelf away from fans because these items freeze quickly.
CUCUMBERS suffer from chill damage. You’ll have better luck with them if you store them on an upper shelf or on the door of the refrigerator.
CITRUS FRUITS release ethylene gas so it’s best to separate CITRUS FRUITS, MELONS AND APPLES away from delicate foods such as LETTUCE.
Some fruits and vegetables should not be refrigerated: BANANAS, GRAPEFRUITS, LEMONS, LIMES, MANGOES, MELONS, ORANGES, PAPAYAS, POTATOES, ONIONS, TOMATOES, AND AVOCADOS all do better when stored on a counter top.
Ripening some fruits on a counter top is best: AVOCADOS, KIWI FRUIT, NECTARINES, PEACHES, PEARS, AND PLUMS. After these foods are ripe, you may choose to put them in the refrigerator.
Fruits to store in the refrigerator include: APPLES, APRICOTS, BLACKBERRIES, BLUEBERRIES, CHERRIES, CUT FRUITS, FIGS, GRAPES, ASIAN PEARS, RASPBERRIES, STRAWBERRIES
Vegetables to store in the refrigerator include: ASPARAGUS, GREEN BEANS, LIMA BEANS, BEETS, BROCCOLI, BRUSSELS SPROUTS, CABBAGE, CARROTS, CAULIFLOWER, CELERY, COLLARD GREENS, CUT VEGETABLES, ESCAROLE, GREENS, GREEN ONIONS, LEAFY VEGETABLES, LEEKS, LETTUCE, MUSHROOMS, PEAS, RADISHES, SPINACH, SUMMER SQUASHES, AND SWEET CORN.

POULTRY
When working with poultry, the wrapping should be completely unbroken with no punctures.
Raw poultry should have a fresh smell with no odor. It should be firm to the touch. It should not be sticky. There should be no discoloration. The internal temperature of raw poultry should be lower than 40F degrees.
Poultry should be stored separately from all other foods. It should be kept on the lowest shelf in the refrigerator to prevent contamination from dripping.
Anything that comes in contact with poultry or its juices should be cleaned and sanitized immediately.
Frozen poultry should have no soft spots.
Partially thawed poultry should be used immediately.
Poultry cannot be kept at room temperature for more than two hours.
Wash hands immediately after handling poultry.

MILK
Milk stays fresh up to six days past the sell-by date. Frozen milk can be stored longer.
If milk sours, use it in a baking recipe calling for buttermilk.
Sour milk is not unsafe to drink.

CULTURED PRODUCTS
COTTAGE CHEESE, YOGURT, SOUR CREAM, AND CREAM CHEESE are considered to be cultured products with a longer shelf life than milk. If the container is open, cultured products can be used up to six weeks past the sell-by date.

http://www.ChooseMyPlate.gov

http://www.allianceforpositivehealth.org

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Peace and food for all.
Thurman Greco

The Monks are Going, Going, Gone

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They came in quietly, unannounced, a couple of years ago on the 10:05 Trailways  bus from Boston.    Eighteen monks in all.   They were transferred out of a lovely monastery in Brookline, Massachusetts,  these priests who traditionally never move at all.

They left quietly these last few weeks, unannounced.  They’re moving to a brand new monastery north of Albany.  Funny how these things happen.   I get the feeling that God is grinning from ear to ear.

We met them because, when they showed up in Woodstock they were temporarily hungry.  The story was slow to surface and I wrote about it earlier in this blog and on the Good Morning Woodstock Blog .  They shopped at the Good Neighbor Food Pantry until they got their budget straightened out.  Once we found them, Peggy made sure they didn’t lack for anything if the pantry had anything to do with it.

In a very short time, weeks, they were delivering food to the home bound on Tuesday mornings with the other pantry volunteers.  They filled out an application to be a food  pantry with the Food Bank of the Hudson Valley.  And, finally, they were attending our mass distributions.

Within a few short months they had their own food pantry going and were serving food to the hungry seven days a week.

Without saying a word, these men of the cloth showed us all how to feed the hungry.    They didn’t skimp.  They made as many food runs to Albany as they needed.  They offered whatever food they had to anyone who needed it.

Then, when I went out and helped open the Reservoir Food Pantry, they made sure we never lacked for yogurt.  Every time the pantry opened we had a freezer filled  for our hungry.

I mean, these priests showed us all how to feed the hungry.  They didn’t offer a three-day-supply of food to someone with the understanding that it needed to last seven days.  They didn’t spend a lot of time focusing on questions about where people lived.  It didn’t matter whether a person was homeless or not.

When the hungry pulled away from the Holy Assumption Monastery Food Pantry, they had  enough food to not only feed the body but the soul.

So now, the priests, who traditionally never  leave a monastery and move to another monastery, are packing up their gorgeous beeswax candle factory, their Food Bank ID number, and moving off to a community which really needs their skills, their dedication, their belief system.

Frankly, I was devastated when I heard the news.  I went out to visit and write the story.  I couldn’t do it.

I sat, visited, and kept asking myself “How can this happen?”  The answer is easy, folks.  They are being asked to take their skills and expertise to Schoharie County where no one is going to question the ethics of feeding the hungry.

And, I  take comfort in the fact that we have not been abandoned in Woodstock.  We have been taught our lesson.  So…now the monastery is being converted into a convent.

These gorgeous men of God are taking their smiles, their radiant halos, their worship, and their food pantry skills to Cobbleskill, New York and they will press on with their daily lives.

The good nuns will have a pantry in Bearsville for our hungry. I understand they’ve already got their own Food Bank ID number.   God is making sure we don’t forget what we learned.

Thank you for reading this blog/book.

Please refer this article to your preferred social media network.

Thurman Greco

 

How to Successfully Shop at a Food Pantry

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At a time when people are busy wrapping gifts and planning festivities, some are struggling just to pay the rent and buy gas to get to work.  Hungry is not a category of people.  It’s a situation that happens.  It can happen to anyone.  December is especially hard on those visiting a food pantry for the first time.  It’s the reason I write this guide

Leave fear, embarrassment, shame, tears at the door.  Most people using pantries are finally in a place where they can rebuild and heal.  When the struggle for food is relieved, life finally feels as if it’s getting better.  For many, the pantry is a safe place.  This is a good group to join.

Arrive a hour before the pantry opens  This makes for a long wait but there’s a better selection right at the beginning.   Use this time to network with your line neighbors.  They can be a resource if you’re trying to  navigate your way through Department of Social Services, being foreclosed upon, get your car repaired.

Learn how long you’ll be in the shopping room, what foods are usually found on the shelves, whether you get to choose the food or receive a bag of groceries, what other pantries people shop at.

Bring some ID.  Some pantries require much:  photo ID, proof of residence, proof that other family members exist.

Once you’re registered, shop every time you’re allowed.  With luck, you’ll find a pantry offering weekly visits.  People sometimes just don’t go if they still have any SNAP card (food stamp) money or if they have a few bucks left over from a paycheck.  Pantries have different food every week and you may miss out on some real savings by not shopping often.

Some pantries have periodic visits from nutritionists offering recipes and food tastings.  Don’t be shy.  Ask for information you need to adjust to the new way of cooking offered by pantries where food choices are different from the super market.  If you’re suddenly cooking with only a crock pot or microwave, the nutritionist can be a valuable resource.

You may see fresh fruits and vegetables you don’t recognize.  At each pantry visit, take home one new food, find a recipe and prepare it.  If you do this, your cooking skills will be vastly improved over time.

Volunteer.  Giving away food and sharing smiles with those around you offers its own spirituality.  You’ll interact with people you never thought in your wildest dreams you would ever even meet.  Pantry shoppers are traveling down a path away from hunger.  Go with this journey which opens the door to inner growth.

Stick with this new routine.  It’s the 21st century way to get delicious, nutritious groceries  for your household.  It’s been years since pantries offered exclusively emergency food.

Thank you for reading this blog/book.

Please share this article with your preferred social media network.  Also, please share this information with anyone who may be able to use it.

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Peace and food for all..

Thurman Greco