Hunger Is Not a Disease

Preventing Senior Hunger

For years, I’ve been blogging and writing books about hunger in America in general and senior hunger specifically.

Senior hunger is not going away anytime soon.

If you read my blog posts, then you are probably interested in senior hunger.  Recently I came across a guide which you will want to read.

To learn more about senior hunger,  access it here:  https://onlinegrad.baylor.edu/resources/seniors-food-insecurity-hunger/

Thanks for reading this article and thanks for your interest and action.

I hope you’ll not only read this article but will also share it wherever you feel it might be appropriate.

This new resource may be of interest to readers everywhere.  The goal is to help open a dialogue in our country about senior hunger.

Thank you for your time and thank you for your concern about seniors and hunger.

Thurman Greco

Please share this post with your preferred social media network.

 

Abundance 2: LeAnna, Catherine, and Jane – Women, Mothers, and Hunger in the Food Pantry

Abundance.  LeAnna volunteered in the pantry.  She had a business degree, a house, two adorable children and a spouse with a fancy career post somewhere in Europe.  He decided he wanted nothing to do with her anymore.  No money came across the ocean for her and the children.  There was no money for taxes she owned on the house, or anything else for that matter.

LeAnna was happy to take the vegetarian items available each week.  Her children loved fresh vegetables so there was much to choose from.  The girls saw yogurt as a treat.

Catherine had a house full of children including two so close together, I thought they were a set of twins.  She couldn’t get it together to work.  And, I doubt if she could have gotten employment in our area anyway.  This lovely lady had two advanced degrees.

There weren’t many, or possibly any, jobs available in Ulster County in her career field.  And, of course, once a woman gets an advanced degree, the lower level jobs aren’t open to her unless she hides the education.  Sometimes education can be hidden.  Sometimes not.  It all depends on the situation.  The main thing is to get it off the resume.

Catherine was open-minded about the food she selected.  She took anything not tied down.  Because she qualified for cases of USDA, Catherine left the pantry with a case each of pasta sauce, canned corn, green beans, vegetarian beans, refried beans.

When she finished shopping, ten-year-old Robert Allen, our next-to-youngest volunteer, brought out the flatbed metal wheeled cart, put her groceries on it, and wheeled them to her car.  Little toddler Mikey, our youngest volunteer, ran along behind.

I saw Jane, the young mother who couldn’t work because her husband threw her up against a wall, injuring her back.  She had an eight-year-old child she was trying to raise without the luxury of child support.

Jane chose items from shelves where bending and stretching weren’t  necessary because she couldn’t do those things.

And, to return to the beginning of Abundance, these three families and referenes to the critics about  shoppers all owning upscale cars – Catherine, LeAnna, and Jane owned fairly late model SUV’s in good condition.  They invited the criticism of the pantry naysayers when they drove into the parking lot to shop.

Here we had three households, single-headed households in need of food.  If not for a couple of years, then for several months.

For some, feeding hungry people means we fed freeloaders.  Not all hungry people look needy.  Some of the best-dressed people in Woodstock never spent a dime on their clothes.  They had no money for clothes so they shopped at  Family of Woodstock.

Neither of these households was homeless, although they could be when the tax collector came to call.

Neither of these households was without transportation although they could be if the SUV needed expensive repairs.  Nobody in these households looked poverty-stricken although they could be if the car needed repairs.

For the moment, neither LeAnna, Catherine, nor Jane looked poverty-stricken although, they would in time with no child support from the spouse to help with expenses.

These three women had several things in common.  They were divorced.  They had children.  They received no money from the ex-spouse even though each one had a lucrative, influential employment career, money, and a bright future.

There was not a job among them.

There was little or no money for a food budget even.

LeAnna, Catherine, and Jane each lived with abundance on one hand, a large box of unpaid bills on the other hand, and hope, dreams, and fears somewhere in the middle.

The children were eligible for school breakfast and lunch programs.  But, that didn’t give them enough food to eat at home.  And, there was no lunch program for the mothers.

So, it was off to the pantry.  This was a life-changing decision.  Using a pantry requires commitment, endurance, and effort.  Attitudes about food in particular and life in general change.

Pantry shoppers are often self-disciplined, self-controlled, determined to do what is best for the family.

Freeloaders?  What do you think?

Every week when these women shopped I saw myself as a young woman returning from Mexico with my two daughters and nothing but the clothes on my back.  There was no way anyone, just by looking at me, would have known how little I had.

Whether we come to the pantry as shoppers, volunteers, or both, all of us are asked by the pantry to leave; the past behind.  And, of course, that’s different for everyone.

How can we move forward into a new life if we never give anything up?  For some, giving up the past means letting go of the job we lost, the home, the furniture that went in the home, maybe the family, self-esteem, the car, good health.

What happens in the pantry, this shopping, this offloading, has the potential to be the greatest journey of one’s life.  The hungry person learns things in new ways, and sees things never noticed before.  And, finally, there is the knowledge that anything can happen.  When all is said and done, things will never be the same again.  Better off for the experience, thoughts change.

Beliefs and core values are found.

I’m sticking my neck out here to say this.

Being hunger in 21st century America is a spiritual journey involving miracles, forgiveness, endurance, and spiritual healing.  It’s all about discovering that it’s never too late to be who you really are.

That’s what this story is all about.

Thank you for reading this  blog post in two parts.  Please forward it to your preferred social media network.

Thurman Greco

 

Hunger, our Planet, and the Winter Solstice

On this Winter Solstice  please take a moment  that fits into your day to focus on our world and how we fit into it.

Visualize a world where all beings know they are connected and live in the comfort of this connection.

Focus on a planet where everyone works together with mutual respect, honor, and  harmony.

In your spirit, see a world in which no one goes to bed hungry.

Understand in your heart that hunger and homelessness are not categories.  They are situations which can happen to anyone.

Create a vision of peace and food for all.

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

Thurman Greco

Grief in the Food Pantry – Hunger is not a Disease

“Lemon Balm Betty is out in the parking lot again.”
When I think of grief, Lemon Balm Betty surfaces from my memory banks. She ran around the parking lot outside the food pantry as fast as her feet would carry her as she yelled at the top of her lungs “Thurman Greco is a f..king a..hole!”

“I don’t think she’s ever going to smile again.”

Her anger morphed into a smile one day when she brought in an armload of herbs.  I put them out in the pantry for shoppers.  Shen she saw this, a smile lit up her whole  being.

Finally!

Grief was unavoidable in the pantry.  Grief and fear are best friends.  Fearful people are uncomfortable and feel hurt in their hearts, clear down to their first chakras.

Grief happens when we realize how vulnerable we are, how insecure we are.

In our past, we sought security.  Some of us found it.

But, then, things spun out of control and our lives began again – in the pantry.

Pantry shoppers and volunteers live with grief.  No one talks about it but people working and shopping in a pantry lost a lot:  love, jobs, family (not to mention the house and everything in it), friends, self-respect, self-love.  Grief is an ongoing series of losses.  In the pantry, we all just duck our heads and press on.

Hungry people live with the specter of what if.

What if I hadn’t lost my job?

What if I hadn’t come down with cancer?

What if I hadn’t lost my car?

It’s all loss.  It’s all change, whether a lost job, the death of a loved one, a lost home.

Loss triggers grief.  And, it’s all incredibly lonely.

I occasionally saw people crying in the pantry.  And, truth be told, I cried in the pantry a few times as well.  Sometimes I cried silently.  Once I cried loud, earth shaking tears.  I was intensely afraid the pantry would shut down.  I knew there was no other place to feed the people.

I don’t remember the exact circumstances which made me so emotional that day.  The reason I cried escapes me now because why I cried wasn’t important.  More important, the pantry is a safe place for us all or no one would have shed a tear.  This safety allowed me to let my guard down for just a moment to cry the tears I needed to cry.

This I do remember:  I cried tears for us all in the building that day as numbness wore off.  This was grief at work.

Tears are necessary to heal  wounds.  There were drugs to numb and mask the pain but there were no pills to heal.  So…I cried because there were no grief pills at the Village Apothecary.

Grief is a journey confronting, enduring, and resolving loss.  A grieving person moves forward never leaving grief behind.  The pain, emotional suffering, were a necessary part of the process.  We grieved over things lost:  people, jobs, hopes, dreams, belief in self, fun.

The trip to the pantry left us all with unfinished business.  It was impossible to lose so much and have it go as a clean break.  No loss was perfect.  While we traveled to the pantry, our lives were full of ups and downs, good and bad moments.  We carried both happy and sad memories inside the pantry room.  Grief was the new normal.  But grief, with all its tears, paved the way for something positive which we experienced when sadness and loss diminished.

Grief attracted spine and joint problems, respiratory problems, irritable bowel syndrome, bronchitis, asthma, pulmonary issues.

Grief needed to be experienced with depth and honesty.  Denying grief got no one anywhere.  I was honest with myself about the grief I felt for the pantry.  If I hadn’t been, I would have lost the pantry to those who didn’t approve of me and the hungry people I fed.

Grief and anger were never far apart.  Anger was always there, just below the surface until it  yelled.

In the pantry, each of us were trying to figure out who we were at the moment and who we would be in the future.  In the middle of the grief, we explored a new reality we found while we each defined who we were in our new surroundings and community.

We tried on new careers and identities in our new lives.  As this happened, we saw the past, the present, and the future all at once.  This experience allowed us to see newly discovered talents, strengths, gifts.

In this experience, we created new voices.  We found courage to overcome fears.

I recognized this new voice whenever I heard “I won’t be coming again.  I got a new job and I’m moving on.”  When I heard this new voice, I also heard anxiety, struggle, disappointments, and courage.  The person was discovering what was going to work and what wouldn’t.

RITA

Rita lived in the Saugerties/Palenville area before Hurricane Irene.  That storm cost her everything.  One day her life was normal and the next day she had nothing.  The most anyone could say about Rita was that she was homeless.

A friend we both knew, Lorene, found Rita a worn out pickup somebody couldn’t sell or even give away.

Until I looked closely at it, I didn’t know what color it was.  I knew what color the tires were, though:  slick and bald.

So, anyway, Rita got the pickup and the key that went with it.  She put the key in the ignition, turned it.  The motor came to life.  It had enough gas to get her to the gas station.  Hurrah!

She began her life over by doing anything that anybody needed to have done for $10.00 an hour and lunch.  She cleaned out flooded houses and sheds.  She hauled trash to the dump.  She used her computer skills when she found anybody who needed administrative work done.  Her clothes came from Family of Woodstock.  She found a room in someone’s house and was finally not sleeping in the pickup.

Whenever she worked over in Woodstock on Wednesday, she took time out to shop at the pantry.

And, I will say this about Rita.

She never once grumbled.  She always had a smile on her face.  She always acted as if the pantry food was the best she had ever eaten.  And never, not even once, did she complain about the ancient jalopy pickup rig she drove around.

As far as I could tell, she never lost hope.  Without hope, I don’t think she would ever have made it to the other side – wherever that was.

For my part, I never once asked her how she got the pickup repaired and I never even looked near the inspection sticker.  Frankly, I was afraid to ask.  I was afraid she would tell me.

Rita was no different from any of the rest of us shopping and volunteering in the pantry.  She had to figure out how much of her past she could rebuild.  And she had to figure out how much of the past she was simply going to close the door on as she moved into the future after Hurricane Irene.  Rita obviously gave up much beyond her material possessions.

She gave up everything she felt stood in the way of her successful future.  Quitting was something she couldn’t afford.

She gave up rear vision.  Looking back into her past simply didn’t happen to Rita.  She gave up bitterness and seeing wrongs.  This means she gave a person a second chance, and even a third when they needed it.

She gave up waiting and putting off something because the stars and planets weren’t properly aligned.  She gave up criticism.  This included herself as well as others.

Rita was the right person in the right place in the right job to unfold her path in front of her.  She carried on each day as if she truly believed it was better than yesterday.  She walked as if blessings were all around her and all she had to do was open her eyes a little wider.

Each day, every day, she did whatever was necessary to build her life.  Rita embraced the future and renounced her past.

She never quit.

Thank you for reading this article.  Please refer this post to your preferred social media network.

Thurman Greco

 

 

 

Have You Applied for SNAP?

Have you, or has someone you know, applied for SNAP? SNAP is about all that’s left in the way of assistance for people as welfare shrinks and shrinks.

SNAP is important for you and your household because you’ll be able to get more food with your SNAP card and you won’t be hungry anymore. This can translate to better health.

Are there more days in your month than money? Are you a senior who has outlived your pension, savings, or ability to hold down a job. Statistics tell us that one senior in seven doesn’t get enough to eat. SNAP is one successful way to help your situation.

If you have trouble buying food, now is a good time to apply. If you’ve applied in the past and were denied, maybe you need to apply again. You may, after all, have answered a question incompletely or incorrectly and were denied this benefit because of it. Try again. You might do better this time around, especially if you or someone in your house is disabled or is a senior with medical expenses.

You may be reluctant to apply for SNAP because you don’t know if you are eligible. Or, maybe you applied in the past but were denied. Maybe even you don’t know how to apply and are overwhelmed by the application. You might even have never heard of SNAP and think of it as food stamps.

SNAP is a debit card which offers privacy and is easy to use in grocery stores. If you don’t want anyone to know you receive SNAP, they won’t. Once you are approved, your SNAP allotment will be renewed monthly.

One thing: If you work, you need to know how to meet the work requirements. Some information is needed for you to apply successfully for SNAP. This information comes in several categories.

Proof of income is necessary. You can use pay stubs, social security income information.

Are you a senior? You are eligible for SNAP. If you are a senior, please apply for SNAP benefits. You worked all your life, paid your taxes, contributed to the economy. It’s time to benefit from all of the contributions you made throughout your life.

Identification is needed. This might be a state ID, passport, birth certificate.

Bills help. Bring your medical, heating, water, auto, rent bills.

Your social security number and the numbers of everyone in your household are necessary.

Dependent care costs will help. These include day care costs, child support, being an attendant for a disabled adult.

Contact your local Department of Social Services office for application assistance. If this doesn’t work, contact your Office on Aging or Catholic Charities.

SNAP is important for you if you’re having trouble buying groceries. SNAP helps you pay for the food you need to live a healthy life. When you eat healthier food, you will prevent and control some chronic health issues. This will lower your medical bills.

SNAP is important for your community, too, because when you are able to get food with SNAP, you’ll have cash available to use to pay your rent or buy gas to get back and forth to work.

SNAP is also good for your community because the allotment on your SNAP card brings outside money to your community. The money you bring into your local economy helps farmers, grocers, and local businesses.

When you buy groceries with SNAP, you are not taking money away from someone else who might need it more. There are enough SNAP dollars for everyone.

You can still shop at a food pantry if you are eligible for SNAP.

Get SNAP today!

Be well.

Thurman Greco

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

Reality in the Food Pantry

 

“How did we all fit?”  What is the reality in the food pantry?

New shoppers always had funny looks on their faces the first time they shopped at the pantry.  They expected to fill out forms.  They expected to prove through documents they existed, had an address, and deserved the food.

They brought social security cards, utility bills, pay stubs, birth certificates.  They came prepared to surrender their innermost private lives in exchange for recycled food originally rejected by a farmer, food manufacturer, grocer, wholesaler.  It was all  bound for a landfill.

The pantry didn’t have much in the way of screening procedures.  For intake, shoppers signed their names and wrote the number of seniors, adults, and children in the household.

Nobody showed documents, especially not their social security cards.  Our forms didn’t ask for addresses because the first inspector to visit the pantry after I became the coordinator assured me they weren’t necessary.

On pantry day, hungry people lined up and went through the pantry as fast as we could process them.  In the two-to-three minutes they had in the room, they took their share of everything on the shelves, regardless of what it was.  I never saw a person turn up a nose at canned peas, fresh spaghetti squash, or beets.

Pantry food is a shock to hungry people on their first visit.  They see unrecognizable items. They sometimes sought a realitycheck. They don’t know what they’re called, how to prepare and eat them, how to store them.  They have no idea what the nutritional content is.

Often, ethnic shoppers have no money and are separated from anything and everything they know or experienced.  Undocumented citizens have no money, know few or no people, probably can’t speak the language, and they are forced by circumstances to shop in a pantry offering nothing familiar to eat.  This must be a lonely feeling.  They questioned the reality of their circumstance.

Worse, finding ethnic food, kosher food, Asian food, is simply not going to happen in a pantry.  This is not necessarily by design.  Food pantries only have food available to them that the food bank has to share.  And, of course, the food bank shares what is donated.

At the end of the shift on pantry day, in the quiet of the closed pantry room, I counted totals.  I carefully added the children, adults, seniors, and households in the pantry line that day.  Often I was surprised at the end of a shift that such large numbers of hungry people shopped in the pantry in one afternoon.

The State of New York sent down clear guidelines, rules, conditions about what, how, and when pantries distributed food donated to hungry people.

Produce came from area farms.  The Hepworth Farm, the Patroon Farm (owned by the Food Bank of Northeastern New York), and Migliorelli Farm as well as from other area farms throughout the Hudson River Valley, throughout the nation, and from foreign countries even.  Farms grew and gave beautiful, fresh, clean, colorful, aromatic produce.

Produce made its way from a farm to a wholesaler, food manufacturer, and finally, a bakery or grocery chain in New York State.  Food manufacturers, wholesalers, farmers, supermarkets salvaged food and donated it to the food bank.  And that’s where the food banks came in.  Food pantries received rejected food anywhere along the food chain.  Volunteers put it on the shelves, and distributed it to hungry people lacking money to buy food.

Most fresh produce came directly to the food bank and what received was often organic but not labeled.  It costs money to label produce as organic.  The stickers alone cost money.  Paying someone to apply them is another cost.  The reason against labeling the produce is practical.  Labeled or not, this beautiful food kept shoppers from feeling they were getting rations.  That’s how the State of New York wanted it.

Not all Hudson Valley farms used organic methods.  Migliorelli Farms, for example, didn’t label produce as organic because this family-owned farm used European agricultural standards to reduce health risks and exposure to pesticides by incorporating crop rotation, fertilization, irrigation, and planting systems.

Never ours, the food was in our safekeeping to give to hungry people, homeless people, the mentally ill, physically ill, poor, to anyone in need.  Leastways, that was what I thought we were supposed to do with it.

New York State tax dollars worked in the pantry.  When volunteers worked at the pantry, we did so willingly and for free.

Sometimes I thought I was the only one in town to see it this way.  Many felt I fed the unworthy hungry, that I embraced the wrong people.  None of the food boxes came to the pantry stamped Worthy Hungry Only.  I never understood what unworthy hungry meant, who the unworthy were, where they came from.  I didn’t understand unworthy hungry the same way I didn’t understand rocket science.  I just didn’t get it.  Because I didn’t get it, no one could sway my beliefs.

Instead, I understood hunger, giving, receiving, sharing, and abundance.  When people signed their names and accepted food, miracles rippled out beyond the building, beyond walls and boundaries – to a divine experience.

While shoppers got food, they sought the resources to live meaningful lives and to trust there was something to believe in, cling to.  They sought the focus to rebuild  lives.

At the pantry day’s end, I was thankful people got groceries.

I searched and searched and got beyond hunger and abundance.  My search was about the meaning of life.  In my youth, (in my thirties), I asked two questions:  What is the meaning of life?  Whatever happened to the Anasazi?

In the pantry (in my seventies), I still searched for the meaning of life.  My questions were different:  How did I end up in a food pantry at my age?  Who are the unworthy hungry.  My questions were wrong.  What I should have asked was “why”, now “how” or “who”.

All my life I felt when I got to be a woman of a certain age I would sit in the rocking chair I inherited from my grandmother and learn to knit or crochet.   Maybe I would occasionally venture beyond home in my yellow Volkswagen convertible with a black top to paint a picture or two in a class nearby.  I fantasize the top would be down at every outing to free my cotton top curls.

Instead, I worked in a small town food pantry in the midst of the biggest economic downturn for decades.

I managed a food pantry in a community where some weren’t interested in recognizing poverty and hunger existing under their very noses.

It came down to reality.  I never found discovered the unworthy hungry because I never saw anyone in the pantry who didn’t need food.  Those preoccupied with feeding with the unworthy hungry saw freeloaders who didn’t need the food, or didn’t belong in the line.

I saw grandmothers and mothers with children standing in the line without uttering a sound.  Not in my wildest dreams did I figure out how they got the children to be so quiet and stand so still.  Grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings, and close friends stood in the line for as much as an hour on Wednesday or Thursday afternoon with children, mostly preschoolers.

Caregivers stood in the hallway weekly in cold, wet, dry, rain, snow, broiling heat inching their way down the long hall until their turn came in the pantry room.  No one, either child or adult, complained about the freezing cold hallway in the winter where the only warmth came from the body heat of fellow shoppers.  The nearest I ever got to a complaint was volunteers and shoppers wearing two hats in the winter.  No one, neither adult nor child, complained about the oppressive summer hallway heat.  The children never made a peep.

Many lived on fixed incomes unprepared for the financial costs and emotional roller coaster ride involved in raising someone else’s children.  Ready or not, they cared for children when the biological parents couldn’t.  For some, the situation was overwhelming.  For others, it was just another day.

THREE SHOPPERS

I saw a cancer patient with finances reduced to a large box filled with bills and no money in the bank.  He shopped weekly until his death.

I saw the woman whose brother had Alzheimer’s.  She was his caregiver and he couldn’t be left alone.  Sometimes she arrived at the pantry so disheveled it was difficult for her to stand in the line and shop.  One afternoon she crashed her car into the bridge outside the pantry entrance.

I saw the widow with more month than money who refused to go to her children for help. She visited the pantry regularly.  One shopping trip included the first anniversary of her husband’s death.  She kept her pantry trips a secret from her children because she was embarrassed to let them know.  This was a small community, so they eventually figured things out.

THE MOTHER AND GRANDMOTHER

She brings her young granddaughter to the pantry weekly.  Sue is maybe four.  She is shy.  Dark brown ringlets frame her little cherubic face.  Her expressions and posture tell me she’s still unaware of her situation.  Her mother works two plus jobs.  There’s not enough food to eat in this household.  Her little dresses are threadbare.

This lovely child takes pleasure in the smallest gifts.  Today, her treat is a can of juice a volunteer found in the storeroom that’s not dented.  Her grandmother teaches her to stand in line quietly, smile, and say “thank you.”

When I see them, I see the universal mother and grandmother next door.  I see a mother and grandmother working hard so that adorable little child has access to a good school, health care, safe streets.

They are our neighbors.

They are our family.

They are us.

I’m reminded we do not live in a we/they world.

Poverty hits children especially hard, with long-term consequences for behavior, learning, and mental health.  They suffer the effects of going to bed hungry.  Ketchup sandwiches and bowls of dry cereal don’t offer the nutritional strength a child needs to grow up into a healthy adult.

However this shakes out, the hungry are us.

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

Thurman Greco

 

 

New Beginnings – Part 2 as I Explore the Spirituality of Hunger in America

 

 

 

 

Like many first-time pantry volunteers everywhere, I showed up that morning because someone from the church asked me to come.  A slot needed to be filled and I stepped up to the plate when I was asked.  I was a foot soldier in the army of the outreach.  I tried to live up to my status in the church as a new member.  I showed up at whatever activity needed help and did my share.  Nothing more.

I had no desire to move up any ladder in the congregation.

On that morning of new beginnings, I had no premonition I would ever return to this pantry room.

I had no plans for this place in my future.  I had a profession teaching reflexology, Reiki, and canine massage therapy in a healing space in my home on Tannery Brook.

This was a case of fools rushing.  Knowing what I know now, I should have run out the door and never looked back.  Mary could have handled the crowd that day without me.  In the whole two hours, no more than a couple dozen people visited the pantry.

I wasn’t blessed with any psychic knowledge…certainly not the feeling of danger I felt when I saw the head of the building committee in the hallway outside the pantry months later.

There were no lines in the hallway at the new beginnings of my time there.  People wandered into the pantry in groups of one and two to choose from cereal, soup, tuna, and peanut butter.

Never in my wildest thoughts on that day did I envision the pantry hallway filled with hungry people, the tiny room packed with fresh produce and jammed with shoppers.

By 2008, the tanked economy was well underway and waits in the hallway were an hour or more.

The Hunger Prevention Nutrition Assistance Program (HPNAP) passed down feeding guidelines which included whole-grain bread, 1% milk, fresh produce.  By 2011, the building committee had rules dictating where people could stand, what bathroom they could use, and what parts of the hallway were off-bounds.

Never did I foresee monthly food deliveries averaging over 12,000 pounds.

Never did I imagine, on that day, building committee members angry over hungry people receiving food according to guidelines set down by the State of New York, the Department of Health, and the United States Department of Agriculture.

I never thought I would spend months grappling with the unworthy hungry, a concept introduced to me by a local religious leader.  The concept wasn’t explained.  Only the two words – unworthy hungry – were used in a sentence:  “You are feeding the unworthy hungry.”  This was something I never heard of before.  What did she mean?  Who were the unworthy hungry?

After that first morning in the food pantry, I drove home, pulled out a little notebook from a drawer and wrote what people said, like real writers do.  When I wrote these things down, I felt my grandmother’s presence.

Her spirit was with me in the room.  I looked around the dining area to see if someone had entered the room without my realizing it.  But, no, I didn’t find a soul.  I walked over to a cabinet and began my dialogue journal on that afternoon.

A shopper:  “They cut my food stamps again.  I don’t know how I’m going to make it.  I have no money this month.  My car died and I don’t know where I’m going to get money to fix it.  If I can’t fix it, I can’t buy a new one either.”

Lillie Dale Cox Thurman spoke to me clearly that morning with emphatic, strong, direct instructions.  She went straight to my head:  “Write this down!  Write this down too!  Now…write this down.”

My grandmother, Lillie Dale Cox Thurman, stepped into my life on the first morning in the food pantry and never left.  Not even when my mother, Uralee Thurman Lawrence, roared in with prayers and fast, furious, aggressive instructions which I resisted to the bitter end.  Under their directions, I joined the crowd in the basement and was soon volunteering regularly.

So, now, I’ve got the second volume, “The Ketchup Sandwich Chronicles,”  coming out on this blog.

 

Thank you for reading this blogged book!  Please refer it to your preferred social media network and stay tuned for future chapters!

Thurman Greco

Hunger: An Introduction

The first time I ever saw a child begging for food was in Mexico.  I was on a car trip going through Monterrey on the way to visit my future in-laws in Mexico City.  When we parked the car in front of a restaurant,  children immediately surrounded the vehicle.  Small children held their hands out, asking for money for food.  Each held up little brown palms.  Their pleading faces looked into my eyes.

At that time, I didn’t yet speak any Spanish, but I didn’t need a vocabulary beyond English to understand the situation.  Their body language spoke of expectations, hope and hunger.

“Don’t worry yourself about this Coit.  They’re just after a few pesos.”  My soon-to-be husband tried to comfort me.  In my heart I knew different.  The child we discussed was about the size of a thin eight-year-old.  Teeth don’t lie though.  He had a mouth full of adult teeth.  That put his age at about twelve years.

In Mexico, children dig through trash for food.  And, nine years after this road trip, in Mexico City, a beautiful young Indian woman standing on a corner tried to sell her infant.  She approached my church friends first, an American couple in Mexico City on a study visa.  Bob and Sue felt they couldn’t get the baby over the border when they returned to the U.S. at the end of their class.  I wasn’t a good candidate because, at the time we discussed the baby, I was still married, had no visa or citizenship papers, and didn’t feel I was ever going to cross back over the river heading North.

Whatever happened to that beautiful baby?  Whatever happened to her desperate mother?  I’ll never know.

You want to talk hunger, then let’s discuss Venezuela and Mexico for a while.  Even now, years later, I remember each encounter with a hungry person or household as if it happened only yesterday.  I’ll never forget those people, the look of hunger in their eyes.

When people wanted to talk to me about hunger in America, it was a nonissue.  Hunger in America?  Whoever heard of such a thing?

Hunger has been with us in this country since the beginning.  Famous American history stories include Pilgrims starving over the first winter in their new home.  The stories of Mormons starving when they headed west are just two.  These stories are different from segments of our population going to bed hungry because there isn’t enough money for food.

Even though I’m the loudest mouth in the crowd when I talk about hungry people in America, I’ve never seen hungry children begging for food when I park my car outside a store or restaurant.

Somehow, in this country, hungry people keep themselves hidden unless they are in the food pantry or soup kitchen line.

I lived in both of those places.  I could talk hunger with you “until the cows come home,” as my grandmother said.  But America?  “Fuggedaboutit,” as I heard someone say once on a Brooklyn bus tour.

 

Thank you for reading this blog post.  It is an excerpt from “The Ketchup Sandwich Chronicles”.  I’ll be posting more stories from this book in the coming days.

I hope you enjoy them.  If so, please refer the posts to your favorite social media network.

But, whether you refer them or not, I thank you for reading this story.

Thurman Greco

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