Hunger Is Not a Disease

7 Things to Consider When Searching for a Food Pantry

All food pantries are different. You need to shop for a food pantry as you would for a car, a major appliance, or any other big ticket item.
THE FIRST THING to look for in a pantry is the location. Where is the nearest food pantry? Will you be comfortable shopping at a pantry in your neighborhood? There are some real pros and cons to this decision. If you shop at your neighborhood food pantry, it’s inevitable that you’ll be seen by people who know you. For some, this is going to be the worst moment of your life. For others, not so.
One nice thing about choosing a pantry near where you live or work is that you’ll save on transportation costs. Also, pantries usually take a while to visit so the less time you spend traveling to and fro, the easier the whole event will be.
THE SECOND DECISION to make is about the hours the pantry is open. It does absolutely no good to know all about the pantry nearest you if it’s open on Tuesday and you can’t get there on Tuesday. So, know right from the beginning of your search when you have time and transportation to get to a pantry.
THE THIRD DECISION to make is about the food itself. The Reservoir Food Pantry, for example, is a vegetarian pantry. So, at our pantry, you’ll be hard pressed to find meat, fish, etc. You will, however, find yogurt. We’re currently offering 9 cups of yogurt per person in the household. I’m sure that luxury won’t go on forever but, for now, life is good.
Because we’re a vegetarian pantry, we offer a large variety of fresh fruits and vegetables and many items are organic.
We also have a freezer and refrigerator which further expand what we can offer on pantry day.
Of course, you can’t really ask pantry volunteers questions like “Are you vegetarian?” and “How many freezers and refrigerators do you have?” However, when you finally get to the pantry for your first visit, you can certainly use your eyes to decide about these things.
A FOURTH DECISION to make about a pantry is whether you’re going to try to find one that’s open weekly, bi-monthly, or monthly. Reservoir Food Pantry opens weekly. Most pantries in our area serve a three-day supply of food. So, if you choose a pantry that’s only open one day a month, it’s for sure you’re going to need to connect up to at least two or three pantries.
For some, this is a good thing because it offers more variety in the foods you’ll find.
A FIFTH DECISION to make is whether or not you want a client choice pantry or not. Some pantries pass out bags of food. You take home what is given to you. Other pantries, like the Reservoir Food Pantry offer client choice. What this means is that you choose the foods you take home. Personally, I think the client choice pantries take more time to visit because the shoppers are actually choosing food. So, it’s a trade off. You spend more time in the pantry but you take home food you personally chose, food that you and your household members can eat.
A SIXTH DECISION involves the paperwork. Just how much paperwork do you want to fill out? You are only, really, required to sign your name for the food. However, some pantries want much more information. Some pantries want to see a lot of identification. Others never ask. One thing they can’t do though: they can’t ask to see your Social Security Card. And, they can’t ask for the number.
Frankly, if the pantry is client choice, if it’s open when you need it, if the volunteers are nice and treat you with dignity, fill out the paperwork and get the food.
A SEVENTH DECISION is all about you…and your attitude. Keep in mind as you travel down this path that you are a trailblazer. You’re moving into a part of our culture known only to those who use the service. You can be embarrassed, ashamed, depressed, angry. Or, you can realize that you are a forward thinking person who is adapting to life in the 21st century and embracing a new habits which many of us are already using.
I like the second way best. Life is easier with a coping attitude.
Pantry shoppers understand that pantry food is our tax dollars at work.
Pantry shoppers understand that money not spent for the food at the pantry store means there are a few more dollars that can be spent on other necessities like toilet paper and tooth paste.
Pantry shoppers understand that pantries offer foods which we can, in many instances no longer afford.
Thank you for reading this blog/book.
Please share this article on your preferred social network.
Please send a comment.
Peace and food for all.
Thurman Greco

Reservoir Food Pantry Launches May Food Drive

The Reservoir Food Pantry in Boiceville, NY is launching an early summer food drive beginning today and running through the end of May.
All food and items of dignity you donate go directly to the needy who visit the pantry or to the needy who receive food packages delivered to their homes.
Funds donated are used to purchase food, items of dignity, and gasoline to go to Latham, NY to pick up food.
The Reservoir Food Pantry opened its doors last September 9th. Volunteers began by delivering food to homebound individuals and households in the area of the Ashokan Reservoir in Ulster County, New York. The numbers of people asking to use the Reservoir Food Pantry services has steadily increased since that time…so much so that the pantry is now distributing food three days weekly. People visiting the pantry or receiving food receive a three-day-supply of food.
People using the Reservoir Food Pantry are making hard choices. They’re choosing between food and medicine, or food and transportation, or food and rent.
Many are food insecure. They are struggling to have enough food to eat. And, they are going hungry.
Children are not exempt from this situation. Volunteers at the pantry work hard to see that the children of families using the pantry have enough to eat.
To donate food or items of dignity, please drop them off at the Community Bank in Boiceville, and the Olive Town offices.
If you prefer to send a check, please make it out to the Reservoir Food Pantry, P. O. Box 245, Boiceville, New York, 12412.
It’s easy to include the Reservoir Food Pantry in your gift giving plans. Simply send a check to the Reservoir Food Pantry and include the name and address of the person receiving the gift. We’ll send them a lovely card telling them that a gift was sent in their name.
Traditionally, donations of food and/or money to food pantries decline in the summer. Often, by August, pantries are dangerously low on food. Their supplies are depleted. We are determined to avoid this situation in the Reservoir Food Pantry if we possibly can. We are working to have enough food on hand to meet the increased need throughout the coming summer months…and beyond.
We thank you for your generosity. We thank you for supporting a local charity. We thank you for thinking of those around you who are in need at this time.
For more information, please call 845-399-3967.
Peace and food for all.
Thurman Greco

What, Exactly, Can I Get With a Food Stamp Card (SNAP)?

Hunger is not an issue of charity. It is an issue of justice.” – Jacques Diouf
This post is dedicated to anyone whose money is just not going as far as
it used to go.
This post is dedicated to anyone who has more month than money.
Are you getting food stamps?
If the answer to this question is “no”, please read further to figure out how to get a SNAP card.
Please don’t be embarrassed or shocked by this. People just like you and me are receiving and using SNAP everyday. They use SNAP to help make ends meet while buying nutritious food. This is the new way we live in the 21st century.
Many people over 60 years of age are having trouble finding money for food…every month. When seniors don’t get enough to eat, they eventually get sick. When this happens, a burden is placed on children and grand children.
I, for one, don’t want this to happen to me and I’m sure you feel the same way.
We’ve all worked for many years and paid our taxes dutifully. Now that we’re retired, our incomes are fixed but our expenses are not. Now is our chance to receive some benefits.
Here is what will happen if you apply for food stamps (SNAP). If you hit the jackpot, you’ll get enough funds each month loaded onto a debit card which you can use to purchase all the food you and your household members need.
If you win less and don’t really get the jackpot, you’ll get something. Either way, you’ll get more food than you had before you applied.
And, when you use SNAP you may save enough money to have a little cash in your wallet that you didn’t have before.
If you apply for benefits and are denied, please find out why. You may have mistakenly answered a question incorrectly.
Food Stamp funds come in a debit card which can be used at a grocery store, gas station convenience store, farmers market or other food outlet. With this little card you can purchase fruits, vegetables, meats, fish, dairy products, bread, cereal. You can purchase food that is fresh, frozen, or canned.
What you cannot purchase is inedible products such as toilet paper, soaps, tooth paste. You are also prohibited from purchasing restaurant food. You cannot purchase foods or meals prepared for in store dining. Beer, liquor, wine, and tobacco are prohibited.
It does take some effort to get this card. You need to apply for it. A form needs to be filled out.
You’ll be asked to give your name, address, date of birth, social security number, the names and ages of people who live with you, your total household income and your monthly expenses.
If you are asked to provide any documents, please only use copies. You keep the original documents in your own files.
SNAP uses your income, shelter costs and medical expenses to determine your benefit amount.
You can apply for SNAP benefits by mail, fax, or in person at your local Department of Social Services office.
If you live in New York State, call 1-800-342-3009 for the address of the office nearest you.
If you want, you can have another person apply for you. An interview is required, but you can have a telephone interview if you cannot go to the office.
You may qualify for SNAP even if you work, receive Social Security, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and/or retirement benefits.
You can apply for SNAP even if you own a house or car, have money in the bank, or live with other people.
If you know someone who might be able to benefit from having a SNAP card, please share this information with them. Statistics tell us that one senior in seven doesn’t have enough to eat.
There is no excuse for anyone in our beautiful nation to go hungry.
Thanks for reading this post.
Please share this article with your preferred social network.
Pleace send a comment.
Peace and food for all.
Thurman Greco

Reservoir Food Pantry – Then and Now

One thing about our pantry that makes us different is that we’re feeding people on a weekly basis ” – Deborah Nigrelli
I walked through the torn plastic curtain covering the entrance to the produce room exactly at 10:30 last Monday morning, just like always.
Except, it wasn’t like always. We hadn’t shopped for produce at the Food Bank in six months.
We parked the van in a slot, raced over to the edge of the Food Bank building and grabbed the only metal flat bed cart available – a 3′ x 5′ wheeled platform to hold all the precious cargo we hoped to find here.
For a few moments, it felt as if we’d shifted into another dimension. Everything looked the same – but it wasn’t. It was as if someone had built a theater set of the Food Bank produce room to trick or fool us. My knee jerk reaction was to ask myself “Where am I…?” Fifty or so years ago, I would have said that I had dipped into the Twilight Zone. But, we don’t say that anymore and I don’t know what people say now anyway.
Then, reality hit. This was the same place with six hard months of wear and tear later. The produce area had simply been “rode hard and put up wet” as my grandmother used to say.
Even the produce cart wasn’t right. It had seriously aged in the last six months. Two wooden slats were missing and one wheel appeared to be about to fall off. We wheeled it over to the produce area. Even though the distance was less than fifteen feet, we doubted the cart would make it. As soon as we got the cart to the produce, we got excited.
Smells waked up our noses: pineapple, oranges, lemons, limes, bananas, onions, tomatoes, asparagus, spinach, lettuce, potatoes, onions, eggplant, broccoli, bread, cakes. We piled it all on the cart as quickly as possible before one of the younger, faster, stronger pantry volunteer shoppers crowded in the room could swoop down and grab all the precious food before us.
It can happen. It has happened. More than once.
“Hey Thurman, look at those pineapples! How many should we get?” she asked as she loaded food onto the cart as fast as she could get her hands on the boxes.
“Listen grab all those carrots. They’re organic.” As I spoke those words, I hefted the 100-lb bag onto the cart.
“Well, look at the apples. They’re organic too.” On the cart went three cases. And, on and on it went. We walked down the line.
In truth, most of the food is organic. It’s also “past its prime” so it’s donated to the Food Bank. Everything given to the Food Bank has been left on the shelves at the super market because it was too old, too big, too small, bruised, misshapen, and left on the shelves at the super market.
In truth, it’s all diverted to the Food Bank on its way to the the landfill.
In truth, I have much in common with this produce. I’m too old, too misshapen, too big, and I’ve been passed by a a few or so times in my life…especially in the recent past.
Shopping here today was like seeing an old friend after a long absence. “Wow. She’s aged. Wow. We’ve all aged.”
For a moment I felt myself aging.
For a moment, I saw myself for what I am – an aging crone accompanied by a retired Woodstock herbalist turned Hindu (Amma) devotee – struggling to lift case after case of food that I shouldn’t lift. But, who else was there?
This haul was some kind of miracle (they all are, actually.) We loaded all this precious food along with cases of cereal, whole wheat pasta, canned green beans, and canned fruit cocktail in the hold of Vanessa, an also aging Dodge Grand Caravan, and returned to Boiceville. We arrived just in time to set up our tables in front of the Wastewater Treatment Plant before the first shoppers arrived.
They trickled up, slowly, some a little hesitant, trying to figure out how to act at a food pantry. Soon, people were visiting, chatting, getting to know one another over apples, asparagus, onions.
In a pantry, we feed alcoholics, artists, child abusers, children, colorful characters, crazies, the disabled, druggies, drunks, elderly men and women, hardworking people juggling two and three jobs, homeless, mentally ill, messed-up people, musicians, normal people, people battling terminal illness, politicians, schizophrenics, thieves, veterans, writers, and volunteers.
Today was a little different from other Mondays, however. We doubled our numbers this week.
This event could have “thrown” other volunteers, just as the appearance of the Food Bank “threw” me earlier in the morning. But, not this crowd. Because all of us working at the Reservoir Food Pantry are experienced, we just went into expansion mode. Before 3:00, we were discussing where we’re going to put the new shelves we’re buying and what specifications our next truck is going to have.
Because, we all know one thing: census numbers rise in a pantry. They don’t go down. The Boiceville area has needed a pantry for awhile so we’re prepared to expand to meet the demand created by the increasing number of shoppers.
Our job is to make sure that we get enough food on our Monday morning trips to Latham…no matter what
Peace and food for all.
Please share this article with your preferred social network.
Please send a comment.
Thurman Greco

A Prayer

Pantries are secular places, in New York State, anyway. We cannot discriminate against a person/family/household because of religious beliefs.
We “cannot engage in the promotion of a particular religion or political party as part of our feeding programs nor require clients to attend religious or political services or instruction in order to receive food.”
That being said, I read a prayer at the beginning of every board meeting. I felt then, and feel now, that it grounded the board members for the meetings. There was always spoken and unspoken push back from several board members about my pantry activities.
The pantry prayer that I read is repeated below. It is two sections. The top section was written by myself. The second part, beginning with the words “O God of abundance…” I got from Sara Miles’ book “Take This Bread.”
To the God to whom we all pray –
We ask that our hands, hearts, minds, and souls be illuminated by the light of your compassion and unconditional love.
We ask that this meeting proceed for the highest good of all connected to our pantry:
The volunteers
The board
The customers who shop in the pantry
The people who donate the food
The workers at the food bank
And those who are seeking, but have not yet found, the pantry.
We ask for the protection and continued improvement of the health of our volunteers and shoppers in the pantry.
Please send Bodisaphas and Angels to guide and protect us as we strive to feed the people.
O God of Abundance, you feed us everyday. Rise in us now, make us into your bread, that we may share your gifts with a hungry world, and join in love and healing with all people.
Thank you.


“There’s a difference between criminals and crooks. Crooks steal. Criminals blow some guy’s brains out. I’m a crook.” – Ronald Biggs
“If a day comes when we don’t have any volunteers, all we have to do is put a nail in the wall and hang up the key. The shoppers will let themselves in the pantry, shop, and lock the door behind them.”
I always take pride in saying the Good Neighbor Food Pantry didn’t even need volunteers.
Of course, this was an exaggeration. But it applied to many of our regular shoppers who knew the rules, knew how much food they were allowed to take, and respected the system. It did not, however, apply to all of the shoppers nor did it apply to all the volunteers. We had several shoppers and volunteers who simply could not live with the three-day supply of food rule.
Pantries, by their nature, are overrun with rules. They are layered with rules. The rules have rules. There are more rules than cans of food in food pantries.
First, the Food Bank has rules: what kind of food we can serve and to whom, what the pantry should look like and how clean it should be, who gets the food.
Shelving is to be six inches away from the walls.
The bottom shelf of each unit is to be six inches off the floor.
The USDA food must be displayed.
Pantry volunteers receive safe food handling training at least once every five years.
The pantry has to comply with food safety standards.
Pantries are not allowed to barter food with other agencies.
Pantries are not allowed to give food to other agencies.
All the food is to be distributed to specifically designated needy persons.
The Hunger Prevention Nutrition Assistance Program has a whole other selection of rules, guidelines focusing on how much food we should serve and what its nutritional value should be.
Pantries are expected to offer fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grain breads, and proteins.
Pantries are expected to support the MyPlate guideline on food selection.
Pantries are expected to serve the shoppers with dignity.
Pantries are required to serve a minimum of a three-day supply of food to recipients.
Pantries may never discriminate against anyone in the provision of service to the hungry.
And, of course, in the Good Neighbor Food Pantry, the building committee was not to be outdone by anyone else. The building committee had its own list of rules:
The building committee was concerned with the hours we could be in the building.
The building committee was concerned with which days of the week we could be in the building.
The building committee was concerned with how many chairs could be in the hallway.
The building committee was concerned about what products we could have in the hallway.
The building committee was concerned with when and where we could be in the parking lot.
The building committee was concerned with when the produce could come into the building and how long it could stay.
The building committee was concerned with the cardboard.
Finally, the rabbis, pastors, and priests of the Woodstock Interfaith Council liked to chime in when I got too enthusiastic and raised to much money or fed too many people.
The important thing was to refrain from serving the unworthy hungry.
I divided the whole crowd into four groups. The first group I jokingly referred to as the Hot Doggers. These people liked to make the rules whether or not they had the authority. And, if they didn’t have the authority to make the rules, who cared? “Scream loud enough and you’ll be heard” seemed to be the motto.
The second group I sadly referred to as the followers. These were the shoppers and volunteers who had trouble dealing with the layers and layers of rules. At one point in the timeline of the pantry, (leading up to and during the Inquisition), people asked each other “what are today’s rules” as the building committee grappled with how many chairs we could have in the hallway for the shoppers, whether or not we could offer food in the hallway, and whether or we could offer diapers or pet food.
This group (the followers) was really in a bad place during some of the uncertain times in the pantry. They needed the food and they were voiceless. Absolutely no one cared what their needs were. It was hardest on those with mental and emotional issues.
One shopper summed it all up on several Wednesdays when she ran through the parking lot yelling “Thurman Greco is a fucking asshole!” at the top of her lungs.
And, finally, the third group was the onlookers. These were the people who lived in the community, lifted not one finger to help, and gave not one penny of support. Their claim to fame was their criticism of all the people who came to the pantry to shop or work and their criticism of everything that happened to the pantry even though they had never been to the place and knew nothing about what was going on.
It finally boiled down to respect. A fourth group was made up of shoppers and volunteers who didn’t care a whit about the rules, what was good for the pantry, what was expected of them, or anything else. All they knew was there was a lot of food finally coming through the place and they wanted it.
No matter what.
One such shopper was a beautiful young woman with two gorgeous daughters who had been coming to the pantry for years. She brought her children, as infants, with her every time she visited the pantry. The children became toddlers, then young children. The oldest daughter became ten. Gorgeous children. One day I realized she was teaching them to steal food.
She came into the crowded room with her two children who immediately scattered to different parts of the room and began to put food in the little bags. There was absolutely no way a person could follow what these three were doing. Final analysis required that an extra volunteer come into the already overcrowded room and supervise the children.
We had a cluster of shoppers who liked to come right at pantry closing time when we were distracted and under pressure with closing activities. Some came in the hope of taking extra produce home with them. Others came expecting to grab an extra can or two of some favorite product.
“You’re only allowed to take one can from that shelf, Sara.”
“Sorry. I forgot.”
One volunteer managed to squirrel away fifteen frozen pizzas.
One shopper, a young man with beautiful, shoulder length, auburn hair, tried to make off with ten bags of dried black beans.
“Put the beans back. We need to have enough bags for everyone. We won’t have enough if you guys take more than your share.”
No answer.
One volunteer brazenly went into the storeroom and carried out two large boxes of food she felt was owed to her simply because she was a volunteer.
“Dana, that food is for the take outs. You can’t take it.”
“Yes I can. I want it and you can’t stop me.”
“Dana, you can’t return here anymore.”
Then, we had one volunteer who went over to the items of dignity closet one afternoon and stuffed her pockets.
“Jean, what are you doing with all these items? We barely have enough to pass out to our shoppers.”
“These are for my friends.”
“Well, you can’t take them. Your friends aren’t signed in and we need these items for our registered shoppers. You know the rules. You’ve been working here a long time.”
One volunteer went around to area grocery stores and picked up foods for the Good Neighbor Food Pantry. Some of this food actually made it to the pantry. However, a portion of it was diverted to this volunteer’s friends and neighbors. The argument could be made that she distributed the food to people who needed it. That’s all well and good. However, she led the grocers to believe she was taking the food to the pantry to distribute to the hungry. She was being dishonest with the grocers who were entrusting the food to her. This reflected poorly on our pantry, I felt, as well as on all other pantries.
Finally, we had our mystery shoppers. Almost every week or two we came into the pantry to find that food had been removed from the shelves over the weekend. This was true in both the pantry and the storeroom.
Considering how many people went through the pantry, the thefts were very few.
As a pantry coordinator, I tried to convince everyone that the food on the shelves in a pantry is not there for the entertainment and amusement of disrespectful volunteers. Neither is it on the shelves for shoppers to take regardless of the rules.
Rather, the food belongs to the State of New York. It is only when it is put in one’s shopping bag after the person is signed in at the reception table that it becomes the property of the shopper.
The Food Bank and the Hunger Prevention Nutrition Assistance Program people had definite guidelines about how much food could be taken by both shoppers and volunteers alike. These rules were known by everyone.
Conclusion: Being a thief is a genetic trait.

Salt in the Food Pantry World

If what the historians tell us is correct, people have been eating salt for over 6000 years. They’ve also been using salt in all kinds of industries. And, in fact, only 6% of the salt manufactured in the world today is used for food according to the Maldon Salt Company.
Salt has, throughout time, played a significant part in wars, commerceand religion throughout the world.
In 1930, Gandhi led a march of 100,000 people protesting a salt tax levied by the British.
It is believed by some historians that ancient trading routes throughout the world began when different cultures bought and sold salt.
Salt is used in religious ceremonies in all the major world religions.
Salt is still an important commodity for all of us.
Before the Good Neighbor Food Pantry got sooo crowded and before our time was sooo limited in the pantry, the shoppers got to read the labels on the cans.
This was important for our shoppers. After all, most of them had no health care to speak of. Their only means of caring for themselves was eating properly.
What a challenge in a pantry!
A typical pantry shift included many people reading canned good labels trying to figure out which items had safe levels of salt, sugar, added chemicals, preservatives, hydrogenated fats, artificial colors, flavors, high fructose corn syrup.
One of the basic problems with pantry canned goods was the prevalence of products with outrageous amounts of salt.
We had a number of seniors suffering with hypertension and a low salt food product was important to them.
This issue still exists in pantries to a certain extent even though the Hunger Prevention Nutrition Assistance Program people began limiting the availability of many high salt products on our food order inventory.
Everyone, pantry shopper or not, is encouraged to reduce sodium intake to less than 2300 milligrams a day. That’s about 1 teaspoon. Adults over 50, and people with high blood pressure, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease should reduce the sodium intake to 1500 per day.
So, how can this be done most easily?
EAT FRESH FOODS. THEY ARE LOWER IN SODIUM THAN PROCESSED FOODS. Stay away from cheesy foods (pizza), bacon, sausage, hot dogs, deli meats, canned chili, canned ravioli, and canned soups.
EAT AT HOME. The meals you prepare at home are more nutritious because you’re in control of the ingredients.
EAT PLENTY OF VEGGIES AND FRUITS. Fresh/frozen vegetables and fruits have much less sodium. Try to eat them at every meal.
CHOOSE PRODUCTS THAT ARE LOWER IN SALT. This means choosing fat-free or low-fat milk, yogurt.
Choose fresh meats rather than eating deli meats which have much more salt. Choose unsalted nuts.
FORGET THE SALT. Remove the salt shaker from the kitchen counter and the dining table. Choose spices, herbs, vinegar, lemon juice, pepper instead.
READ THE LABELS ON THE FOOD. Choose foods which are labeled “low sodium”, “reduced sodium” and “no salt added.”
CHOOSE LOW SODIUM CONDIMENTS. Some condiments such as soy sauce, pickles, olives, salad dressings are high in salt. Choose the low sodium variety.
And, of course, it’s all about choice. Choice is a rare commodity if you are shopping in a food pantry because you have no money. (And, why else does one shop in a food pantry?)
Food pantry shoppers have very little control over what they eat because they can’t afford to shop in the grocery store with thousands of choices. Neither can they afford to shop in the farmer’s market.
One way people can help the situation is by donating healthy foods to a pantry. As a donor of food to a pantry, you are the one making the choice. When you choose, for example, to give a low sodium soy sauce to a food drive, you are responsibly choosing a healthier product for someone who has absolutely no money to make such a choice.
Thank you for shopping and donating healthy foods to your food pantry and soup kitchen.
Thanks for reading this blog/book.
Please share this article with your preferred social network.
Please send a comment.
Peace and food for all.

Walmart Saves the Day – Again and Again and Again

We found Walmart by accident. We certainly didn’t start out with Walmart on the list that day.
It was early October. We’d opened the Reservoir Food Pantry just three weeks before and were already realizing how much food and money we were going to need. So…it was time for a food drive.
We needed to bring out the “big guns” as they say in Texas.
Bonnie and Prasida drove over to Kingston to the mall and began the hunt.
First stop: Hannaford’s
“We’re voluntering at a brand new pantry in the area, the Reservoir Food Pantry, and
we want to hold a food drive. Can we schedule a food drive in front of your store?”
“Sorry, it’s against our corporate policy.”
(I do need to relate that Hannaford’s donates food to the Food Banks.)
Second stop: Target Stores
“Sorry, it’s against our corporate policy.”
(Again, Target donates to the Food Banks.)
Third stop: Lowe’s
“Sorry, it’s against our corporate policy.”
So much for the mall and the big box stores. What now?
Prasida and Bonnie called: “Where are we going to go now Thurman? Maybe it’s time to go home and think of another plan.”
“Wait, there’s one more place left.”
“We’re from a brand new pantry in the area, the Reservoir Food Pantry, and we want to hold a food drive. Can we schedule a food drive in front of your store?”
“Sure, let me get my store calendar. When do you want to come?”
What a lifeline! We’ve been soliciting outside the Kingston Walmart for three days in every month since October. Two months we didn’t come (November and December) because the Salvation Army is stationed outside their doors for Christmas.
We stand outside the door with the 21st century version of a tin cup (a large clear plastic jar) and ask everyone who comes into the store for a donation of either food or money.
I have to admit, this is such a positive experience. Little children drop coins in the jar, gruff adults soften up their postures for a moment and share for the hungry. We ask for $1. We are sooo grateful when someone drops in change.
We are sooo grateful when someone drops in $2 or $5 or $20.
The generosity of the Walmart customers and the Walmart management are sustaining our pantry. The Reservoir Food Pantry is thriving because of their trust in us and our pantry. When we make decisions in our board meetings, we are not only making decisions for our shoppers and sponsors, we are making decisions about our pantry knowing that a very large group of people counting on us to feed the most people needy people possible.
This offers an added layer of integrity to the mix.
The donations of the people walking into Walmart to shop have paid for our gasoline to travel back and forth from Latham weekly.
The donations of the people walking into Walmart to shop have paid for our 501(c)3 fees.
The donations of the people walking into Walmart to shop have paid for our office expenses.
The donations of the people walking into Walmart to shop will pay our utilities.
Last Wednesday, I was standing at a table in front of the Walmart alone and for a moment no one was around. Just this huge box store behind me and the gorgeous mountains in front. Quietly, a woman walked up to the donation jar, placed her hands around it and prayed.
Thank you for reading this blog/book.
Please send a comment.
Please share this article on your preferred social network.
Peace and food for all.
Thurman Greco

Woodstock Commons Then and Now

An institution in Woodstock, the Sunflower Natural Foods Market, sits on the main street in of a piece of property once called Bradley Meadows. Bradley Meadows was a privately owned property allowed for many years by the owners to be natural. Townspeople loved it that way. Wild forest creatures inhabited the place: squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits, migratory birds, wood frogs, spring peepers, newts, American toads, spotted salamanders, and the endangered Indiana Bat. There are even a few stories about a black bear.
Homeless people inhabited Bradley Meadows then also. Quietly, as far under the radar screen as possible, people lived. They pitched tents, or lived under the trees in the woods behind the Sunflower.
These homeless visited the pantry weekly. Between pantry days, it’s said, they dumpster dived for what food they could get.
Several years ago, steps were taken to turn the Bradley Meadows property into an affordable housing site. The Rural Ulster Preservation Company came to town. What a group! No matter what objection anyone raised about the housing project, the RUPCO team overcame it. The Woodstock Commons plan created much dialogue and discussion among some residents.
Some Woodstock residents fight change as aggressively as if their livelyhood depended on it. Historical events include the Woodstock Post Office, and the Cumberland Farms gas station among others. After much noisy back and forth the project eventually gets finished and we all forget there was ever conflict or that anyone even cared. But, it certainly beats boredom.
“They’re going to ruin the traffic in the area.”
“Using all the water is going to be too expensive for our town.”
“That’s a flood plain over there. Nothing should be built.”
“What about the wildlife?”
“Nobody local is going to get to move in. This is going to ruin the town.”
The dialogue could have been summed up as somewhere between “Over my dead body” and “When hell freezes over.”
After much haggling, horse trading, and politicking, the buildings went up on one third of the forested plot. Eighteen acres, designated a Forever Wild Conservation Easement, have nature and interpretive trails. One trail goes to the shopping center where the Sunflower, Rite Aid, and Bank of America are located which minimizes automobile traffic.
These trails have fitness exercise stations. One, an Energi Total Body Fitness System is good for overall fitness. The other station, a Lifetrail Wellness System Exercise Station focuses on fitness for those over 50 years of age.
The construction code is “Green”. Eleven buildings were beautifully laid out on the land, arranged in a circle so residents can connect with one another.
Woodstock Commons is an intergenerational development with two buildings for seniors/handicapped residents. Twelve units are reserved for artists. All buildings are non-smoking. (There is a specified smoking area in the gazebo.) In short, Woodstock Commons is an example of the country’s affordable housing movement. Woodstock Commons is eligible for gold level certification in the US Green Building Council Program.
People filled out applications and turned them in at the Ulster Savings Bank, and the RUPCO office in Kingston. And, finally, in late 2012, the first residents moved in. As each unit became complete, a family moved in. New residents moved in by ones and twos every few days or so until all fifty-three units were filled.
At first, the residents felt as if they were experiencing culture shock. Everyone and everything was new to the space. People moved from Woodstock, Rosendale, Kingston, Saugerties as well as other places. It took awhile to anchor and define the energy of the new community.
A true diverse community, people came from different educational, class, ethnic backgrounds. What they had in common was a desire to meet basic needs. Maslow’s Hierarchy comes to mind here. In many instances, RUPCO was a lifeboat for people who had lost their homes to foreclosure, weather events, etc.
RUPCO is a landlord and sooo much more. The goal is to create lively and active community for the residents.
The hub of the whole community is the Superintendent. Ken has the personality and drive to make the Commons as positive an experience as possible for the residents. He’s well liked by everyone and the grounds and buildings are well maintained. He has his hand in many Commons events. Projects include:
Organic vegetable garden on common property
Local barbecue events for residents
Nature classes with scavenger hunts on the grounds
Art shows
Birthday parties
Dance classes
Crochet classes
Sunday Morning Story Hour
Drumming circles
Holiday dinners for the residents
A real community has emerged as residents get to know one another. Babies have been born. Conversations are taking place over the garden plots, Saturday movies, community meals, and food pantry deliveries.
Even with all of these activities there’s a hunger for more. People are looking for a story teller to visit regularly.
So…we’ve come full circle. It’s rumored that one of the homeless who lived in Bradley Meadows now has a home at Woodstock Commons.
And, what about the wildlife? Some of it is no doubt gone. But, some of it has stayed on to become part of the Woodstock Commons community. New wildlife has arrived. Every time I drive on the grounds I see animals.
The place is beautiful. It makes me wonder what the fuss was all about in the beginning.
What a gift to our community!
Thanks for reading this blog/book.
please share this article with your preferred social network.
Send a comment.
Peace and food for all.
Thurman Greco

The Closing of the Milagros Angels Pantry

I first read about the closing of the Milagros Angels Pantry in a September 25th newspaper article written by Barry Carter for the Star-Ledger.
The coordinator of this Newark, New Jersey, pantry was one of those rare people with “fire in the belly” for feeding the hungry. She was a woman with a true passion for her people.
Barbara Arroyo operated her pantry out of The Temple Rock of My Salvation Church in the North Ward of Newark where she served upwards of 1000 people monthly.
The story of the closing is a little complicated, of course. It appears to be a combination of feeding too many hungry people mixed in with political oversight.
For my money, either/or/and may have happened.
For sure, when someone opens a pantry in a church, things are wonderful as long as the number of hungry people fed stays around two to three dozen people weekly. And, of course, if the coordinator is doing a good job and feeding the hungry, the numbers soon escalate to 100 or 200 or even 300 people weekly.
That’s when things get a little antsy. People become uncomfortable with the situation.
The subtext here is this: send them somewhere else, anywhere else, but not here.
Depending on the personality of the church board/members, the church may begin to just get mean to both the volunteers and the hungry in hopes of running them off. One sure way to do this is to limit the hours the pantry can be open.
Then, occasionally, politics rears its ugly head. And, that really is scary because if a pantry is connected to a 501(c)3, politics need to stay far, far out of the picture.
Finally, if that doesn’t work, the church just says “You’re closing.”
We may never know the true story.
Such is life on Hunger Street. What happened to Barbara Arroyo has happened to other coordinators of other pantries as well.
I’m writing this story for a reason – not just to vent about a church closing a pantry. I’m writing this story to see if I can find out more about Barbara Arroyo. I honestly feel she’s a woman with a ministry.
My question is this: Has she been able to open somewhere else yet…or has she just given up?
Please contact me if you think you might have the answer.
Thanks for reading this blog/book.
Please share this article with your preferred social network.
Peace and food for all.
Thurman Greco