Everyone coming to a pantry travels down a path. For many, this journey is a real load lightener. As the finances erode, the house goes. And, of course, when the house goes, everything that was in it goes too.
Furniture, kitchen stuff, toys, clothes, tools, garden implements. By the time a person or family gets to Motel 19, things have slimmed down to a few clothes, a blanket or two, a hot plate, or maybe an electric skillet or microwave.
For the families living in Model 19, the children are usually eligible for the school breakfast and/or lunch program. But, that doesn’t cover eating at home. And, there’s no lunch program for the adults.
So…it’s off to the pantry.
Several families usually pile in a car and come over for an afternoon of pantry shopping. Or, an individual hitch hikes. In order for this trip to succeed, several guidelines to follow will help:
Try to arrive an hour or so before the pantry opens. This makes for a long wait but there’s more of a selection right when the pantry opens. Also, while waiting in line, there’s an opportunity to make new friends and learn a few survival skills if you’re new to the pantry experience.
Bring your own shopping bags. Some pantries don’t have enough of these much needed items.
Bring some ID. Some pantries require much: picture ID, proof of address, proof that other household members exist. This can be a bit tough if you’re homeless. Hint: some pantries require little to no identification
Be prepared to wait in a line. Use this time to meet your line neighbors. They can be helpful if you’re trying to navigate your way through DSS, if you’re being foreclosed upon, need your car repaired, etc.
As you wait in line, try to learn how the pantry works from those around you in the line. You’ll want to know how long you’ll be in the shopping room, what foods are usually on the shelves, what other pantries the people in line shop at, etc.
Don’t be afraid to let people know you’ve never been to a pantry.
Once you find a pantry you can use, go every time you’re allowed. If you’re lucky, you’ll have a pantry in your area which will allow weekly visits. Because pantry shopping takes so much time, shoppers sometimes just don’t go if they still have SNAP card money or if they have a few bucks left over from a paycheck. Your best bet is to go every week.
Why? Most pantries have different food every week and you may miss out on some real savings by not attending regularly.
Pantry shopping requires a totally new approach to cooking. So does cooking with only an electric skillet or microwave.
Some pantries have periodic visits from a nutritionist. Don’t be shy about asking him/her for any tips you might need to help this adjustment a bit easier for you. Nutritionists know a lot about the food you are now trying to cook with and they can answer any questions you might have.
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PS: This book is at the publisher’s now. It will be available SOON! You can order it at http://www.thurmangreco.com.
The world of people who are homeless may seem very foreign – But, it’s actually very near. We meet people every day who are just like us, only they don’t have a roof over their heads.
We can all find ourselves without a roof when we lose a job. Or, maybe a spouse dies. Possibly an accident which leaves physical disabilities is the cause. In short, all it takes is a personal tragedy.
There are many things we can do to help end homelessness. There are many, many things we can do to help those who are struggling with homelessness.
One easy way we can help is to take a little extra food along when we go out of our home to work or on errands. A few extra sandwiches will help. When a person asks for change, offer him or her a sandwich.
A couple of times each year, gather the clothes you are no longer going to wear and donate them to shelters and pantries providing services to help those who are homeless.
While you gather clothes for the homeless, look at your family’s toys, books, and games and select those that are no longer being used. Children living in shelters have few possessions and will enjoy them.
Can you spare an hour or two? Tutors can make all the difference. Volunteer to tutor children in shelters.
Celebrate your birthday or anniversary and ask the people you invite to bring items for the homeless.
Carry fast food certificates with you when you are going out. Hand them out to people who are homeless.
Hold a food drive and take the food to a shelter or a pantry in your area.
Donate your collectable recyclable cans and bottles to people who are homeless. Donate a bag of groceries to a soup kitchen, shelter, or food pantry.
Volunteer at a food pantry or shelter.
Volunteer your professional services. Lawyers, doctors, psychiatrists, counselors, and dentists can all use your skills when you volunteer at a pantry or shelter.
Ask your company, church, school to host a fund-raising event for a pantry or homeless shelter. Items of dignity are really needed by the homeless.
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PS: The hunger book is really moving along. Things just never get finished as quickly as we all wish. Writing a book requires years and years of research and writing. In writing the hunger book, I have gone through thousands and thousands of sheets of paper and three computers. I have spent years and years getting this story moved from an event in my life to a book which will attract you or not in less than two minutes.
The homeless have problems just like you and me: employment, health issues, disabilities, domestic violence. They just don’t have a roof over their heads.
Homeless people, families enter food pantries very quietly. They’ve lost their voices. The goal is to melt into the background, get food, and disappear.
There’s an exception to the voicelessness – when the person communicates with beings unknown to the rest of us. One shopper I know has been in another world since before I began working in the pantry in 2005. He communicates in a high, shrill, unknown tongue which I cannot describe. His shrill vowels are punctuated with hard, sharp whistles, clicks, squeaks.
We can all help homeless people in some way. Each of us has talents and skills which can be useful.
DONATE. Homeless people carry their kitchens in their pockets . So much food which we take for granted is just not helpful. Important in the homeless diet is peanut butter and crackers in individually wrapped packages, cereal in self-serve packaging. Fruits and vegetables which can be eaten raw, milk and/or fruit juice in individual containers. Donate these items throughout the year by regularly giving the food to a food pantry in your area which is homlesss friendly.
VOLUNTEER. Pantries everywhere need an extra set of hands to answer mail, drive a truck, serve food, clean up at closing time, send press releases, hold food drives, stock and straighten shelves, deliver food to the home bound.
CLEAN OUT YOUR CLOSETS. Donate clothing, bedding, books, and other gently used items to places where the homeless will have access to them.
SHARE. Do you or someone you know have a garden? Donate the excess to a homeless friendly pantry in your area. When your garden tomatoes get to be too plentiful, there are those in your area who need the food.
PUSH THE ENVELOPE. Contact elected officials about homeless issues in your area. Encourage them to make ending homelessness important in your community.
EDUCATE YOURSELF. Returning veterans have special needs. For one thing, they begin separation from the military homeless.
FIND A JOB. Encourage your church or community to hire a homeless person. Many homeless want to work, have skills, but have trouble finding regular employment.
DO YOU HAVE A SKILL TO SHARE? Contact a local shelter and offer to give classes.
For a time, one of our most trusted volunteer/shoppers was homeless. His partner, Nancy, died and her children didn’t want him in the house they had lived in together for many years. He fought her children for a year with a lawyer, made several trips to court, the whole enchilada.
He finally moved out and ended up homeless for a time. He eventually got housing through a homeless veterans program. I helped him move his clothes and things over to his new apartment in Saugerties.
Homelessness cannot be generalized. Each homeless person is a special personality and has a special situation which s/he deals with. So here’s my rule about homeless people:
IF YOU’VE SEEN ONE HOMELESS PERSON, YOU’VE SEEN ONE HOMELESS PERSON.
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BOOK UPDATE: The new hunger book is going to be out soon. The publisher assures me that we’re going to see the book within a month! Hurrah!
Starving seniors? Is that too harsh a word?
Let’s ratchet it down: hungry.
Or, maybe: food insecure. Yeah, that’s better. It sounds better anyway.
Call it what you want, the event is the same. It’s your grandmother or grandfather (or me…I’m certainly a grandmother) caught in a situation where there’s simply not enough food in the house.
Seniors living on Social Security are finding themselves routinely choose between food and medicine, food and transportation. When they need new clothes, seniors regularly shop at the boutique of the closet.
The issues with seniors and food insecurity are serious because when seniors no longer have the money to buy the food they need for proper nutrition or why they can no longer buy the medicines they need, they become ill and finally end up being cared for by their children or they end up in a nursing home.
I know many stories about:
The older woman in Woodstock living on mashed potatoes.
The older woman in Bearsville who ended up in a nursing home when she was cut off from her pantry take out food and didn’t have the resources or physical ability to get to a grocery store.
The older man who doesn’t have enough money for food and is slowly starving to death.
There is food available for all these people
if they can get to a pantry
if they can connect with a pantry offering take out food
if they can sign up for SNAP (food stamps).
I recently spoke with a retired friend. “Richard, do you get SNAP?”
“Why Richard? SNAP is usually easy to get. All you have to do is apply.”
“Well, I’m getting by without it. Let someone else, needier than me, get the money.”
“Richard, think about getting SNAP. This is something you paid for with your taxes. Why leave money on the table?”
I haven’t convinced him yet. However, we’re not through negotiating. As seniors, we’re in a situation where every little bit helps.
The barriers to SNAP for seniors are great. Seniors resist going to a pantry, soup kitchen, getting SNAP until they simply can’t resist any longer. I know the feeling. We grew up as children and went into adulthood feeling that if we worked hard and paid our taxes, we would end up okay. We worked all our lives believing this. And now, there simply isn’t enough.
With this event comes feelings of inadequacy and self blame. “I must have done something wrong. Here I am living hand-to-mouth. I don’t even have enough money for food. What did I do wrong?”
I don’t like a whole generation of people blaming themselves. I feel we’re not totally to blame. The rules have changed. Because we’re retired, we’re not in the rules making game anymore. Retirees are somewhat disempowered. Whatever happened to the Grey Panthers?
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The new memoir about hunger in America will soon be available! I’ll keep you in the loop.
Thanks again for your support!
SNAP is important. SNAP will help you if you are having trouble buying groceries.
SNAP is important for your community, too, because when you are able to get food with SNAP, you will have cash available to help pay your rent or buy gas to get back and forth to work.
Have you, or has someone you know, applied for SNAP? SNAP was formerly known as food stamps.. SNAP is about all that’s left in the way of assistance for people because welfare is shrinking and shrinking and shrinking yet again.
If you are having trouble paying for your groceries, 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. 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.
Some people are reluctant to apply for SNAP because they don’t know if they are eligible. Or, maybe they applied in the past but were denied. Many people don’t know how to apply and are overwhelmed by the application. Some people have never heard of SNAP and think of it as food stamps.
One thing: If you work, you need to know how to meet the work requirements.
Some information is needed to successfully apply for SNAP. This information comes in several categories.
Proof of income is necessary. This comes in the form of pay stubs, social security income information.
An identification is needed. This might be a State ID, passport, birth certificate, etc.
Bills help. This will include medical, heating, water, auto, rent.
Your social security number and the numbers of everyone in your household is necessary.
Dependent Care Costs will help. These include day care costs, child support, attendant for disabled adult.
Contact your local Department of Social Services office to arrange for application assistance. If this doesn’t work for you, contact your Office on Aging or Catholic Charities.
SNAP is an important benefit which will help you if you are having trouble buying groceries.
SNAP is important for your community, too, because when you are able to get food with stamps, you will have cash available to help pay your rent or buy gas to get back and forth to work.
SNAP is important for your household because you’ll be able to get more food with your SNAP card and you won’t be hungry anymore.
This translates to better health.
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Please forward this article to anyone and everyone you know who might be able to have a better life with SNAP.
This book is being published now and will be available soon!
This book will be going to the publisher before the end of the year.
Lord, thank You for the food pantry where I work.
And, Lord, thank You for the shoppers and volunteers I’ve come to know through our work here.
I ask You Lord, have patience as we learn to pray for one another and care for one another. Our pantry work is a glorification of Your name as You work miracles in our midst. Thank You for the difference You make in all our lives.
Lord, You teach us much in this pantry. For starters, You’ve taught us that the hungry shall be fed – no matter what – no matter why – no matter who.
We experience what it means to be new as we learn what it’s like to work with, accept, and feel welcome – both the worthy and the unworthy.
We’re learning that we’re all Your people. We are all accepted. We are all holy. We are all worthy. The pantry is faith in action.
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This article was written back in 2013 when we got Miriam’s Well up and running. I’m sharing this event with you.
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?
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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!
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.
The manuscript for the memoir will go to the publisher on Tuesday, January 9th! I’m ecstatic! I’m excited!
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O Lord, You are a God of Abundance.
Allow me to serve the hungry with an open heart.
Give me the courage to distribute food without strings attached when volunteers are serving the hungry.
May I never need to keep score.
Give me the physical strength to keep the shelves of the pantry stocked with as much food as we can pack on them.
Grant me the emotional stamina to understand the many needs of the shoppers.
Never let me get so tired that I forget we are all one group: Yours
At the food pantry, hunger is hunger. It doesn’t matter what size the household is, what size the car is, or what or where the family calls home. At the food pantry, no one has to complete an application shop. What’s important is that the person is in the line and there is food for that person and his/her household.
Lord, You send over the food, You send over the people and You send over enough food for everyone with some left over. This happens every pantry day on every week. People are always welcome. Lord, You bring people together through the food pantry.
Thank You for all You do for the hungry.
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Peace and food for all.
Thurman Greco – Woodstock, New York
“How dare you feed this kind of food to these people? If they’re hungry enough they’ll eat anything.”
“That woman has a car and her son has a job. She shouldn’t get pantry food.”
“How dare you serve this much food to those kinds of people?”
The “are they hungry” issue looms large in food pantry conflicts. The fears are many and boil down to this:
1. Financially comfortable people will shop at a pantry when they actually have the money to go to a supermarket.
2. Riffraff are going to take the pantry food and sell it.
3. Many people shopping at a pantry wouldn’t need to come to a pantry if they managed their money better.
Very few people are comfortable with the concept that pantry volunteers give the food away…no strings attached. An unspoken concept here is that the hungry, the struggling class, individually and as a group should be punished for being the downtrodden.
Sometimes when I try to sort the whole thing out in my head, I’m reminded of the chicken yard my grandmother had during World War II. Occasionally, a chicken would be ill and the other chickens would begin to peck at it. If the chicken didn’t get well, it would be pecked to death.
For me, this is simply not an issue. I welcome all shoppers. They don’t have to be destitute although I did see many hungry people in a pantry. Pantry shoppers everywhere routinely endure
uncomfortable waiting conditions
lack of choice.
The lines in a pantry can routinely be longer than an hour. The hungry wait in line whether it’s raining, snowing, or if there are broiling summer temperatures. Outside pantry buildings, there is little or no protection from the elements.
The hungry wait in these lines to have access to about 30 different food products. Compare that number to a trip to your local super market with it’s 10,000 or more items to choose from.
And, finally, if I ever could take the attitude that hungry people must have done something wrong and don’t deserve that kind of food, I remember the time I foolishly asked a child in line in the basement of the Woodstock Reformed Church about Christmas.
Santa doesn’t come to families that stand in the pantry line.
Thanks for reading this blog/book.
The story is true. The people are real.
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