Hunger Is Not a Disease

Hurricane Irene, Superstorm Sandy, and the Reservoir Food Pantry in Boiceville, NY

The 2014 Hurricane season officially began June 1. This information is just so much trivia to many. However, people in the Ulster County pantry world are, of course, a little antsy. It’s understandable. We, those of us who live in this area, haven’t gotten over the last two hurricanes. Mold and rot continue to advance on residential and commercial buildings at a fast clip while funds for repairs and replacements of damaged/destroyed buildings and vehicles have in many instances not yet become a reality. Many left homeless, jobless, and without transportation feel to their bones that nothing is ever going to be done to repair/replace things damaged and ruined.
Some don’t believe another hurricane will pass this way again. After all, two horrendous weather events, each producing floods of Biblical proportions are enough. Right? Reservoir Food Pantry volunteers know what we’re up against. After all, we were the deniers after Irene. We learned our lesson with Sandy and now prepare to feed those affected by the next “big one”-whenever it hits.
Hurricanes are very destructive, often ruining everything in their path. Some people include their lives in the “ruined” category. Sam and Mary lost a home, a job, and a car in Irene. They still live in the area, in a rented shed. They walk wherever they go – including to the Reservoir Food Pantry.
Or, if you prefer, you can get us a gift certificate at the Food Bank of the Hudson Valley. Call 845-534-5344 and donate money to the Reservoir Food Pantry, Agency Number 2539f. That call will get us the most food for the money. Food at the Food Bank is .16 per pound, making a can of soup cost sixteen cents, for example.
If you access the Food Bank of the Hudson Valley through, the donate button looms large on the right side of the screen. You can’t miss it! Again, please specify your donation goes to 2539f, Reservoir Food Pantry.
And, finally, if you prefer to choose and buy the disaster relief foods you give to the Reservoir Food Pantry, please drop them off at the Olive Town Offices or at the Community Bank in Boiceville.
However you choose to share, none of your donations will be used to pay for rent or salaries. And, most important, this disaster food will be in the hands of the victims before any other food sent in from outside sources.
Peace and food for all.
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Thurman Greco

The Food Pantry in the Closet – Olivebridge, New York

“We are all angels for each other.” – Allan Gurganus
Not far from Kingston, New York lies a tiny community in the Catskill Forest named Olivebridge. This little community is tucked away on a side road off of a side road off Route 28. Blink and you’ll miss it. Well, Olivebridge has a pantry. I wish there were more Olivebridge pantries in our country.
Members of the Olivebridge Methodist Church built a small closet outside the entrance to their church building. They installed shelves. They put a sign on the door. Their darling little pantry is open 24/7/365. No signatures are required. No ID is necessary. Need food for a meal? Fine! Show up. Take what you need.
That’s all there is to it.
All pantries are different. Some are large – serving thousands of people monthly. Not all communities need a huge pantry. However, all communities can use small pantries like the one in Olivebridge. These small pocket pantries serving less than eighty people monthly offer a much needed service.
If congregations, schools, hospitals, fire houses, court houses, community centers, senior centers, daycare centers have a closet pantry, there won’t be so many congregations with pantries overwhelmed with lines of people outside their doors.
ATMOSPHERE quiet, rural
SERVICE self service
SOUND LEVEL During daylight hours, birds can be heard singing in neighborhood trees.
FOOD OFFERED On both occasions when I visited the pantry, there were canned beans, fruits, and vegetables. There was also a small assortment of pastas with jars of pasta sauce. Cereal, baby food, and pet food were also available. Non food items included shampoos and an envelope filled with grocery store coupons. Empty grocery bags were on the top shelf. There was no fresh produce available.
HOURS This pantry never closes.
TO DONATE TO THIS PANTRY Send a check to Olivebridge United Methodist Church, Pastor Karin L. Squires, P. O. Box 1397, Olivebridge, New York, 12461. The phone number is 845-657-8494. The actual location of this pantry, if you want to bring a food donation, is 5179 Route 213, Olivebridge, New York.
PANTRY AFFILIATION To my knowledge, this pantry is a totally independent facility, operated by members of the Olivebridge United Methodist Church.
FINALLY The Olivebridge United Methodist Church cafe and thrift shop opens on Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The last time I visited, the menu included hot dogs, orange jello squares filled with shredded carrots, and coffee.
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Thurman Greco

How About Another Round?

“Why should there be hunger and deprivation in any land, in any city, at any table, when man has the resources and the scientific knowhow to provide all mankind with the basic necessities of life? There is no deficit in human resources. The deficit is in human will.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
In my quest for clarity about feeding the “unworthy hungry”, I spoke with several knowledgeable people, spent yet more time on computer searches, and read even more.
I made an appointment with the Rev. James Reisner, the minister of the Westminster Presbyterian Church in Albany, located just one block from New York State’s Capital building. I met with him one Friday afternoon on a perfect New York State autumn day. This historic old building on a tree lined street could not have looked more beautiful. The building itself has a rich heritage dating back to the early 1800’s.
The Rev. Reisner’s congregation, while housed in a building very comfortable with our past, is focused on present-day issues and community needs; not only of Albany but also the surrounding area.
Even though he didn’t know me from Adam, Pr. Reisner graciously agreed to see me. We met in the church library, a cozy, bookfilled room just inside the building entrance. He was polite, thoughtful…and very knowledgeable of the Bible. I knew within just a few minutes that I had chosen the right person for advice and information.
He listened to my questions and went to a Bible in the room and turned to 2 Thessalonians 3:10-16 and read from the passage which offered a significant shift in the dialogue.
“For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: if anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.”
Now, here was a viable argument…finally. He had me on the right track.
When I returned to Woodstock, I put notes together:
According to Dr. Grant Richison, Paul’s team taught that working for meals is a Biblical principal. the rationale was that as some Christians were waiting for the imminent return of Christ they gave up their daily pursuits: jobs. Then, when they ran out of money, they tried to sponge off their neighbors, friends, and relatives.
So, Paul was writing about those who could work but were taking advantage of the graciousness of others. Paul was pretty straightforward here. He was not talking about those who cannot find a job or people unable to work because of disability or illness.
The quotation: “For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: if anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.”
This statement isn’t hard to understand. I submit to you this statement still doesn’t apply to people in the pantry line.
It’s estimated that, in our pantry line, one child in five eats only at school.
Seniors also have problems with sufficient food. One senior in seven does not have enough to eat.
Fully 75% of the people visiting pantries are ‘food insecure’. They lack access, at times, to enough food to go about their daily lives. About one third of people shopping at pantries suffer from very low food security. Many live in rural areas or ghettos where there are no real grocery stores. Their food comes from gas station food markets, convenience stores, and pharmacy grocery shelves.
Many served by pantries experience poor health and lack access to medical care. Easily 50% of pantry shoppers have unpaid medical or hospital bills.
It’s estimated that 10% of the households visiting pantries are homeless. Many of these homeless people have jobs. They simply don’t make enough money to pay rent.
During the summer of 2010, I realized the attitudes of the Building Committee members, some other congregational representatives and volunteers were escalating. I felt pressured.
On one hand, I was trained by, evaluated by, reported to, and inspected by the Food Bank of the Hudson Valley, and the Food Bank of Northeastern New York. The people who trained me and evaluated my performance were using guidelines set down by the Hunger Prevention Nutrition Assistance Program (HPNAP). I was doing everything I was being trained to do. People were getting fed…hungry people who needed food were getting a three-day supply of food which they had to make last for seven days. Some people in the community were beginning to recognize that I was doing a good job.
In the meantime, Ed Jabbs, the chairperson of the building committee of the Woodstock Reformed Church called the Food Bank.
“I’m calling from the Woodstock Reformed Church in Woodstock. I’m calling about the Good Neighbor Food Pantry. Thurman Greco, the coordinator is bringing a lot of fresh produce into our building. We feel that the food is infested with vermin. We don’t want this food in our building. I’m on the building committee and I’m complaining about her.”
I was really in a vise. What did I need to do. Well, for one thing…I needed to get comfortable with the reality
that the town was angry. After all, if my superior at the Food Bank was happy with my performance and the people who shopped at the pantry needed the food, what else did I need to worry about?
So, I needed to do some work on myself…to become more comfortable with my situation and my reactions to wholesale community anger focused at my job performance.
I did two things. First, I scheduled a weekend at Peace Village, a local retreat house having an Anger Management class. Friends encouraged me to not attend this class but it was all I could find that even remotely dealt with my situation. The weekend was transforming. I arrived on a Friday evening in August and met fellow attendees. The class was packed, the room full.
By 8:00 that evening, I learned we were all in the same situation. We were all, without exception, trying to function in a work situation in which a very angry person was extremely unhappy with our performance. We felt that the person unhappy with our performance was being as angry and obnoxious as possible under the circumstances.
As each attendee told why s/he was at Peace Village for the weekend, I heard the same story repeated over and over. Only the setting was different.
“My supervisor at work hates me. She does everything she can to make my life miserable. I feel that I do a good job. Other people feel that I do a good job but she yells and screams at me whenever she sees me.”
“I work in a kitchen. The chef took a knife to me. I know kitchens are tough but this guy is scary.”
This weekend, taught by two very professional women, not only gave insight into our individual situations but taught us about the personality types of those unhappy with our individual performances. I learned how these personalities developed and how these people became who they were in adulthood. Knowledge is power, they say.
The second thing I did was schedule classes with Richard Genaro, an experienced teaching actor in the area. Richard teachess his techniques to corporate senior executives, community activities, actors.
Richard teaches people to cope with bullying.
Richard teaches skills which are inspirational, instructional, therapeutic.
Richard helped me dig deep to find hidden talents I could use in stressful situations in the pantry.
Richard hauled out a huge yellow bat at every class for me to pound on the furniture. He used this technique to release stress.
Whap! Whap! Whap! We could hear the sound of the bat hitting his sofa all over his neighborhood.
Richard, very professionally, never asked for funds to replace his sofa.
I learned how my anger and frustration manifested and how to deal with these emotions. I also learned I was in a good place with my job at the pantry.
“Thurman, are you getting your produce from our Food Bank?”
“Our produce is very fresh and clean. Thanks, Thurman, for serving the fresh produce. Are you purchasing the HPNAP produce?”
“Yes. The shoppers love it.”
“Well, we can’t get any better than HPNAP produce. I sent Mr. Jabbs some flyers and brochures highlighting the need for fresh fruits and vegetables.”
At the end of the summer, my head was in a much better place. I had a better understanding of my job description and how I should react to the attacks.
To the outward eye, there was no real difference. However, within, I was much calmer. Each day that I didn’t hear from Ed Jabbs, I knew from my training that he was terrorizing someone else. While I was sorry for that other person’s plight, I breathed a sign of relief that I wasn’t on his list for the day anyway. In short, I was doing much better in September than I had been doing the previous June.
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Peace and food for all.