Hunger Is Not a Disease

Food Pantry Blog – Reservoir Food Pantry Opens Its Mobile Pantry Location Today

Today, March 31, at 2:00 p.m., the Reservoir Food Pantry will open the doors at its new mobile location in Boiceville. This new pantry is located on Route 28 in Boiceville at the intersection of 28A. You’ll find us behind Roberts Auction.
Since September 9, 2013, Reservoir Food Pantry volunteers have been delivering food weekly to homebound households and senior complexes in the area around the Ashokan Reservoir in Ulster County New York.
The Reservoir Food Pantry is primarily a vegetarian pantry, offering many fresh foods to include produce, baked goods, and dairy products. Volunteers will be driving to Latham and/or Cornwall weekly on Monday mornings to bring back the freshest possible produce to the pantry for the shoppers in the afternoon.
Designated a Mobile Food Pantry by the Food Bank of the Hudson Valley, volunteers will continue to deliver food to homebound households and expect to increase the number of locations where they will be offering food.
Volunteers are currently raising funds for a truck to increase the effectiveness of the pantry.
The Reservoir Food Pantry is servicing an area with very few food pantries.
For more information, please call 845-399-3967.
Peace and food for all.
Thurman Greco

Food Pantry Blog – 9 Things You Can Do To Help the Homeless In Your Area

“People are living in tents. They’re living in cars. They’re living in the woods.” – Ginger Segal
Be a friend to Mother Earth by donating instead of dumping food, growing fresh produce and donating it to your local food pantry, donating clean egg cartons and reusable shopping bags pantry volunteers to share with shoppers.

Donate food to a homeless friendly pantry in your area. A homeless friendly pantry doesn’t discriminate against homeless shoppers by demanding identification with addresses. After all, homeless people don’t have an address and cannot shop in those pantries requiring detailed identification.

Donate food to a pantry in your area that distributes food the homeless can eat. Homeless people carry their kitchens in their pockets so a lot of food which we take for granted and use is just not useful for the homeless person. Homeless people need peanut butter and crackers, cereal in small packages, fruits and vegetables to be eaten raw: carrot sticks, strawberries, blueberries, celery sticks, etc. Milk in small containers is useful.

Give a little throughout the year by regularly donating to the pantry in your area which is most homeless friendly.

Volunteer at a homeless friendly pantry or soup kitchen.

Communicate with Persons of Influence by contacting elected officials about homeless issues in your area and encouraging them to make ending homelessness a priority.

Get organized by cleaning out your food pantry and donating the healthy items to the food pantry. Donate clothing and bedding in good condition to places where you feel the homeless will have access to some of the items.

Understand that returning vets have special needs and they often begin their separation from the military homeless.

Know that people being released from prison often are homeless. They no longer have contact with their community. They have no job. They have no place to go.

Help set up a pocket pantry in a church, synagogue, or school.

Peace and food for all.
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Thurman Greco

Hunger Blog – Hunger is Not a Disease at the Food Pantry.

In March, 2011, Mark Bittman of the New York Times wrote an opinion piece entitled “Hunger is a Disease.” The following post is my response to his story.
Hunger is many different things to many different people…depending on the conditions they live in.
Because I’m the coordinator of a food pantry in Ulster County, New York, I see the many faces of hunger every week.
I see the hunger of the line as people stand outside the building, sometimes for as much as an hour, to get a three-day supply of food which must last seven days. I try to “pad the bill” as they say, by bringing in as many different kinds of fresh produce, dairy products, and bread into the pantry weekly as I can. My policy here: take as much as you can eat for three days.
The three-day limit is a Hunger Prevention Nutrition Assistance Program (HPNAP) guideline. And, it’s a practical one. The fresh produce really isn’t going to last much more than three days. So, everybody gets to take all they can eat in three days.
I see hunger in the condition of people coming to the pantry weekly with absolutely no money for food. These people, while receiving a three-day supply of food which will last for seven days, are doing without MUCH: salt, pepper, sugar, flour, fresh milk, cooking oil, coffee.
Often these people, like the members of the Flores family, are working seven days a week – every week. Every family member has more than one job. They manage to bring in enough funds to pay the rent for a cramped apartment and to buy gas. Period. No insurance. No food. No clothes. Thank God for the free clothes at the Family Clothes Closet.
When I think about it, I realize that everything they get is recycled: the apartment they rent is old and rundown. The family pickup is definitely used. The clothing is brought over to Family by people who no longer plan to use it.
The food, likewise, is recycled: the produce, dairy, and bread was definitely on its way to the landfill when it got diverted and sent to the Food Bank.
The canned goods were all diverted at the grocery store from the landfill. The cans are dented. Many are outdated. Some have no labels anymore.
The boxed goods are the worst…especially the crackers. A box of crackers is really a box of cracker crumbs.
No matter, the people are grateful for what they get. It’s better than nothing.
For the most part, the people shopping at our pantry are what the survey labels resource poor. Resource poor routinely choose between food and utilities, food and housing payments, food and medicine/medical care, food and transportation, food and gasoline.
And, of course, people in the resource poor category are also food insecure. They lack, at times, enough food for an active, healthy life for the household members.
It’s physically challenging to work three jobs on insufficient food. Hungry school children have a much harder time learning than their well fed classmates.
There are many articles, books written about global hunger. For me, global hunger is not a focus. What DOES exist is the hunger in my pantry, my neighborhood, my community.
Hunger is a condition. It accompanies malnourishment.
As Mark Bittman of the New York Times says: “Hunger can lead to starvation; starvation to death.”
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Peace and food for all.
Thurman Greco

Food Pantry Blog – Migliorelli’s, Hannaford’s, Walmart, Shoprite, Bread Alone, and HPNAP Leave Gifts.

During the summer, Migliorelli Farm supplemented our produce when they donated the unsold produce from the Farmer’s Market. This generosity allowed us to have extra produce on Thursdays. During the winter months the farmer’s market was closed and we brought extra produce from the Food Bank.
The goal was to allow the shoppers to take as much produce and baked goods as they could eat in three days. So, while the shoppers were rushing around the room, they were using valuable seconds, minutes choosing from the gorgeous produce which volunteers brought in only a few hours before.
The Hunger Prevention Nutrition Assistance Program people wanted everyone to have a three-day supply of food for each person in the household with food for three meals daily with each meal offering three of the five food groups. They wanted us to serve 50 percent fruits and vegetables and we proudly did so. Guidelines included low fat dairy products and whole grain breads.
We generally had much bread and people could take all they wanted. Bread Alone was extremely generous with us so our shoppers got excellent quality bread.
Baked goods (pies, cakes) were always available compliments of Hannaford’s, Walmart, Shoprite.
Many was the week when I heard “Oh boy! My son (brother, sister, mother, father), is having a birthday. Now I have something to give.”
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Tomorrow’s post will tell the story of my first visit to the Good Neighbor Food Pantry.
Peace and food for all.
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Thurman Greco

A New Family Visits the Good Neighbor Food Pantry in Woodstock for the First Time

“Is this your first visit? Welcome. We hope you’ll come every week. That’s how you get the best deals. Come on in. Go around the room in a clockwise direction. Start here with a bottle of water. Now, as you go around the room, can you use a box of cereal? How about a jar of peanut butter? We have some grape jelly today. Take a jar of mayonnaise, too.”
“No thanks. I have a jar of mayonnaise at home now. My kitchen is almost totally empty because my husband hasn’t worked in seven months. I’m completely out of food. But I do have a jar of mayonnaise.”
“Take it anyway. You never know when we’ll get more in. Back on this wall is our USDA section. You can take two cans of each type of vegetable or fruit for each person in your household. That means you can take two cans of vegetarian beans, refried beans, green beans, corn, peaches, and tomato sauce for each person. How many people are in your household?”
“There’s me, my husband and my two little girls. They’re in elementary school.”
“With four people, in your household, you can take eight cans of each of the USDA foods.”
I was always proud to have the USDA foods. When a person’s kitchen is totally empty, it’s a godsend to be able to take several cans of different items to put on the shelves. Our tax dollars are at work here.
“While you’re making your way around the room, take what you can of the fresh produce, breads and bakery items. We’ve got potatoes here and carrots, onions, peppers, spinach, salad mix. Take what you need from the 100-lb. bags of onions and carrots. Take what you can eat in three days.”
“Over here in this section, we have a shelf of canned miscellaneous items. You may take one item from this shelf. Underneath, we have #10 cans. Take one if you think you can use something that large. As you go along, be sure and take some mushrooms, tomatoes, celery, yams. Don’t forget the Progresso cooking sauce. Can you use a box of crackers? We’ve got some Triscuits today. How about bread? There’s a lot of Bread Alone bread today. Take what you need. Up on the top shelf we’ve got corn flakes.”
On and on this went as the people circled around the room.
Months later her story revealed itself. Her husband was badly injured in an accident and will probably never work again. They owned a piece of land which they sold for money to live on. One child has diabetes. Here was a woman struggling against many obstacles to raise her two daughters properly.
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Peace and food for all.
Thurman Greco

Waiting to get into the Pantry Room, the Shoppers at the Good Neighbor Food Pantry in Woodstock Stand in the Hallway for as Much as an Hour Sometimes

The hallway was about fifty feet long and eight feet wide. It was lighted with neon lights installed in the ceiling. About six feet in on the left wall, before the Meals on Wheels entrance, was the Items of Dignity closet. About halfway down the hallway on the left was the entrance to the Meals on Wheels kitchen.
To make sure the Meals on Wheels volunteers could get in and out of the building, the sign in table was on the right side of the hallway across from the Meals on Wheels entrance.
The shoppers stood in a single line behind the sign in table on the right side of the hallway. They weren’t allowed to touch the walls or sit on the floor. They just stood there, for as much as an hour sometimes, waiting for their turn to go into the small pantry room.
“I hope they have yogurt today. Bobby really likes to have a cup of yogurt when he comes home from school.”
“Those green beans we got last week were sooo delicious!”
“Does anybody know someone who can fix my car?”
“What’s wrong with it?”
At the end of the 50-foot hallway was the storeroom and the famous left turn. The hallway turned left here leading to the rest of the church. Forbidden territory. We weren’t allowed to go down the hall beyond that point. Unfortunately, that’s where the bathrooms were.
If someone needed to use the men’s room or women’s room, they walked to the end of the hallway, turned left into the forbidden territory, and then chose the appropriate room. After the person left the restroom, a volunteer went into the room and inspected it for cleanliness and to be sure the toilet paper wasn’t stolen.
“Next 2 please.”
“Tony, here’s some more cardboard for you.”
Thanks for reading this blog/book. Tomorrow’s post focuses on a new family visiting the pantry for the first time.
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Peace and food for all.
Thurman Greco

Food Pantry Blog – In the Pantry Room on Wednesday Afternoons

We want to prevent waste and build community. Why throw away perfectly good food? There are hungry people who could really use it right now.” – Nancy Hahn
Rich Allen walked to the door of the Woodstock Reformed Church. “Will the first five people in line please come in now?”
For me, this was always a sacramental moment.
I stood at the door to the pantry room. “Is anyone signed in?”
As soon as a person was signed in s/he was invited into the pantry. Shoppers continued to enter the pantry as soon as they were signed in until the room’s total was four shoppers. When this happened, the persons waited in the hallway until a person finished and left the pantry. Then the next person in line was called in. This pace continued nonstop until the pantry closed at 7:00. We kept the room at a maximum of four shoppers all afternoon because there was always a line.
People shopped for the two to three minutes it took to go around the room and then left. In that short time they chose from about thirty different kinds of canned goods and whatever fresh foods were available. We rarely ran out of the fresh foods because we brought as much back from Latham as we could carry.
With four shoppers and one to two volunteers in this small room, there was no room to turn around, back up, or retrace one’s steps. The produce boxes were piled high along the four walls in front of the shelves. They held the bounty from the drive to the Food Banks. The shoppers filed through the pantry very quickly. A slow shopper might even stop the line for a few moments. As the people edged around the room with not even an inch of free space, empty boxes were sailing out of the room to be caught by Tony Cannistra, Bob Otto, or Richard and Robert Allen.
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Peace and food for all.

Wednesday Afternoon Pantry Opening Ceremonies

Every Wednesday, when the barn shopping was happening, I walked up to the pantry entrance. The shoppers always parted and allowed me space to get to the door.
“How are you doing?”
“I haven’t seen you in awhile. How are you doing today?”
“How is your neck doing? Have you got that operation scheduled yet?”
Every Wednesday afternoon, at exactly 3:00 p.m., I unlocked the small basement door in the side of the Woodstock Reformed Church. There was a ceremony to this. I entered the building accompanied by two volunteers. We then worked rapidly to get things ready for the shoppers. I turned the lights in the pantry room and the hallway on. The doors to the Items of Dignity closet were opened.
The outside building door of the Woodstock Reformed Church opened into a small foyer area with a stairway to the second floor and another door leading into the hallway itself.
No one connected with the pantry was allowed to linger in the foyer.
No one connected to the pantry was allowed to stand, sit, or walk up and down the stairs.
No one connected with the pantry was allowed to leave packages in the foyer.
No one connected with the pantry was allowed to place cardboard in the foyer.
In short, the foyer was kept open, free of anything or anyone at all times.
The door in the foyer opened into the hallway which was about fifty feet long and about eight feet wide. This is where all the action was.
As we walked through the foyer to the hallway, we worked rapidly to prepare for the crowd of hopeful people outside the door.
The door to the pantry was immediately to the right at the beginning of the hallway. Three feet beyond the pantry entrance was another door…to a room no one was allowed to enter: the handicap bathroom.
Two volunteers, usually Rich Allen and Prasida Kay, would fire upn the computer and make sure the sign in table was ready while I ran into the pantry and quickly checked everything one last time.
Maritza broke out of the line, entered the hallway and stood at the Items of Dignity closet. She speaks no English but she has a beautiful smile and definitely knows how to distribute toilet paper and razors.
“Okay out there?”
“I’m fine”. Rich
“Wait Thurman. We need another couple of minutes.” Prasida
“Okay guys. It’s a go…GO.” I stood at the entrance to the pantry room.
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Peace and food for all.
Thurman Greco

Meet 7 Wednesday Shoppers in the Good Neighbor Food Pantry

The local bicycle shop owner visited regularly. If I were going to give a title of “mayor” to a member of the pantry shopping community, I would give it to him. Everyone loved visiting with him, chatting with him for a moment. His energy was calm, grounding. He knew everyone’s name, shared his energy with everyone he came in contact with. He embodied a real respect for the earth and its resources as he rebuilt used or discarded bicycles into beautiful, functional, desirable pieces of equipment to be used again, in another incarnation. One Christmas, for example, Jo Schwartz bought a bicycle for Robert Allen from him.
Some afternoons we saw as many as four or five of the more famous local poets lined up in the hallway together. I always felt honored to be in their presence. And, I was honored that they came to our pantry for food. I was, however, saddened by the fact that we live in a society with absolutely no consideration for writers, poets, artists, sculptors, musicians.
One angry man showed up at our pantry the day after he was fired. After that day, he shopped at our pantry regularly. And, of course, it was a situation where we all knew he wasn’t ever going to work again. It took him way over a year to calm down from the injustice of it all. He was quiet about his anger but anybody with a brain and an eye could see the emotions. He simply could not get his feelings off his face.
One famous artist came regularly for many months. He home was being foreclosed on. He maintained a positive mental attitude about the whole experience. But sorrow was unavoidable. After the foreclosure process was complete, he ended up in a shelter in Kingston. He still shopped at our pantry whenever he could get over to Woodstock for about a year afterward. Here was a man with an international following who could not make payments on a very modest dwelling in Woodstock.
Thank you for reading this blog/book. Tomorrow’s post focuses on the actual Wednesday afternoon opening ceremony of the pantry.
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Peace and food for all.
Thurman Greco

Hungry People Waited Outside the Building in Rain, Snow, Freezing Cold, or Boiling Heat to Shop

Everyone waiting up by the church door would have established his/her place in line. And, most of the people who came down to the barn to get food stayed mindful of that place. Some people wouldn’t come down for fear of losing their place in line. That wasn’t a frivolous decision because the wait could sometimes be more than an hour with no chairs to sit on. Leaning on the wall was not permitted by the building committee. Sitting on the stairs wasn’t permitted either. People stood outside the building in rain, snow, freezing cold, boiling heat, etc., until called to come into the building to sign their names in the shopper ledger book. They entered the hallway in groups of five. Once they signed in, they stood in the hallway and waited their turn.
Most of the people waiting outside the building did make it down to the barn though.
There was one group of hearing impaired people, five in total.
There were two women who always carpooled. Together, dripping wet, they weighed about 110 pounds.
One young woman came over from Motel 19 on most weeks. She had two daughters in their early teens. She volunteered at a pantry in Kingston regularly and visited our pantry for the produce.
Two sisters came weekly. They were both married, had 9 children between them. They carpooled to save on gas. Husbands and pets came along for the ride.
An older couple came weekly. She was ill with congestive heart failure. He was large and walked with a cane. Often he came alone because she was in the hospital or at the doctor’s. They were in a situation where they had simply not made enough money in their lives to be able to live on social security.
Thanks for reading this blog/book. We’ll talk about more people who visited the pantry and waited in the line on Wednesdays in the next post.
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Peace and food for all.
Thurman Greco