Hunger Is Not a Disease

What Hunger Looks Like in Woodstock

POLITICIANS THIS YEAR POSTURE ABOUT CUTTING BENEFITS AND INFRASTRUCTURE SPENDING TO PRESERVE OUR NATION.    Newspaper and magazine articles regularly discuss how we now have more super wealthy CEOs and individual Americans than we have ever had before.  The growing number of poor is largely ignored.

More Americans live at or below the poverty line than ever before in the history of our country according to a Feeding America survey.  Where do these people come from?  They come from the poor and middle classes.


In September, 1990, when the Good Neighbor Food Pantry opened, President Bush and Soviet President Gorbachev met in Helsinki to discuss the Persian Gulf crisis.  Only 13.5% of our nation’s people lived below the poverty line.  That percentage represented about 33.5 million people according to  Today, it’s estimated that 15% of Americans live at or below the poverty line.  That number is about 46.2 million.


For years, the pantry served mostly single homeless men and Woodstock’s colorful characters on Thursdays.  By the time we were serving over 500 people weekly, we were giving a three-day-supply of food to families, households, and individuals in many categories:  artists, crazy poor, elderly poor, generational poor, homebound, homeless, ill poor, infant poor, messed-up poor, musicians, poets, newly poor, resource poor, situational poor, struggling poor, terminally ill poor, transient poor, underemployed poor, unemployed poor, veterans, writers.

AS TIME PASSED, I SAW MORE AND MORE HARD WORKING PEOPLE STRUGGLE WITH THE REALITY OF NOT HAVING ANY FOOD MONEY AFTER THEY PAID THE RENT AND BOUGHT GAS TO GET TO THEIR MINIMUM WAGE JOBS.   I served people just laid off from a job who I knew would never work again.  Seriously ill people came for food when they had no money left because every dime had gone to pay the medical bills.  Traumatized people came in when their homes were foreclosed or destroyed because of Hurricane Irene and Superstorm Sandy.

On a more personal level I met alcoholics, artists, child abusers, children, crazies, the disabled, druggies, drunks, elderly men and women, hardworking people juggling two and three jobs, homeless, mentally ill, messed-up people, musicians, people battling terminal illness, politicians, schizophrenics, thieves, veterans, Woodstock’s colorful characters, writers,  various church people, and pantry volunteers.

When I meet with other professionals in the food pantry industry, we all agree that we’ve never seen anything as bad as now.  Don Csaposs, a retired board member of the Food Bank of Northeastern New York recently described our situation very aptly when he said:  “We are living in an upside down world.”


The average wait for a three-day-supply of food (which must be stretched to last a week) in the pantry hallway is almost an hour.  The building committee allows no chairs for the shoppers to sit on.  In the winter, there is no heat in the building except for the body heat generated by people crowded in the hallway.

AND, THIS WAIT IS ONCE THEY ARE INSIDE THE BUILDING.    Many wait outside for an hour or so in freezing weather, snow, sleet, rain, 100 degree heat, before the pantry opens.  It doesn’t matter.  The three-day-supply of food is gone and they have no money for more.

The three-day limit is a Hunger Prevention Nutrition Assistance Program (HPNAP) guideline.  And, it’s a practical one.  The fresh produce distributed isn’t going to last much more than three days because it’s been diverted from a landfill on its way to the pantry.

While receiving a three-day supply of food, they are doing without a lot:  salt, pepper, sugar, flour, fresh milk, cooking oil, coffee.

Often these people, like members of the Flores family work 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.

No insurance.

No food.

No clothes.


The apartment they rent is old and rundown.

Their pickup is definitely used.

The clothing is donated to Family by people who no longer plan to use it.


The produce, dairy, and bread is all definitely on its way to the landfill when it gets diverted and sent to the Food Bank, then on to our pantry.

The canned goods are diverted at the grocery store from the landfill.  Cans are dented, outdated.   Some have no labels.

The boxed goods are the worst…especially the crackers.  A box of crackers is often a box of cracker crumbs.

NO MATTER, PEOPLE ARE GRATEFUL FOR WHAT THEY GET.   It’s better than nothing and no one ever complains.

On behalf of the Flores family and other pantry shoppers, I thank you for reading this blog/book.  This blog is their story…one that desperately needs to be told.

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Peace and food for all.

Thurman Greco

Spaghetti Sauce – That’s what it’s all about in a food pantry.

I’ve always had issues with spaghetti sauces.
MY MOTHER NEVER PREPARED A SPAGHETTI SAUCE.   She cooked in the classic French manner. Her family was one of the first settlers in Texas and had one of the largest ranches in the state so beef was on the table every day. Her meals focused on extremely thick steaks, composed salads with chopped apples, raisins, nuts arranged on a bed of lettuce in the middle of a salad plate and dressed with her own specially prepared poppy seed dressing.

The steaks were always at least two to four inches thick and were cooked at least medium rare. My mother learned the cooking and nutritional rules of her day and lived by those principles until she died.
SHE NEVER TAUGHT ME TO COOK.   “I want you to do other things with your life than cook. We’ve got can openers now. I’ll show you how to operate one of those when you get married.” True to her word, she did and I did.
As I set up my own kitchen right after getting married, one of the first things I taught myself to prepare was a tomato sauce to be served on spaghetti. It was easy, cheap, and just my speed.

THE RECIPE INCLUDED TWO  28-ounce cans of diced tomatoes, a 6-ounce can of tomato sauce, 1 cup water. It was seasoned with a teaspoon of dried basil, 1-1/2 teaspoons of salt, and 1/8 teaspoon of dried oregano. I put 1 clove of crushed garlic in a large pot along with 2 tablespoons olive oil and browned the garlic. Then, I added everything else and let it simmer for about 30 minutes.
I CAN’T SAY I’M A COOK.   However, I can say that, like my mother before me, I lived with a set of guidelines learned about nutrition, food safety, and how to follow a simple recipe to the “t”.

YEARS LATER,  my second spouse took cooking classes on Tuesday evenings at L’Academie de Cuisine in Bethesda, MD. It was glorious. He never really cooked a pasta sauce either. He finally ended up in what was for him a dream job as a vegetarian chef for Marriott and I never complained. After all, he did all the grocery shopping and cooking. What was there to complain about? Life was glorious!

MORE YEARS LATER, IN THE GOOD NEIGHBOR FOOD PANTRY,  I ENCOUNTERED YET MORE ISSUES WITH SPAGHETTI SAUES.   For one thing, there weren’t any. Pasta was available maybe half the time. But, the traditional jars and cans of spaghetti sauce were very difficult to find on the order list. It’s a shame too, because homeless or near-homeless people lack kitchens and to be able to open a can or jar of spaghetti sauce and heat it up in a pan over a burner or in a microwave would have been a real treat.
At one point, the USDA inventory included a low salt spaghetti sauce loaded with sugar. People took it home but we all knew that if they had diabetes, life could get complicated. This sauce certainly met the requirements for a low-salt product.
FINALLY, IN  2012, Progresso came out with a series of canned cooking sauces. And, following their policy of generous donations, they sent a huge shipment of them to the Food Bank.

HURRAY! I was able to buy these sauces for sixteen cents per pound which was well within my budget and many cans were available. And, buy them I did. One of them, Fire Roasted Tomato, appeared to be adaptable to a simple pasta sauce situation. While they were certainly not the traditional spaghetti sauces, they worked.

THAT’S REALLY WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT IN A PANTRY.   We get the best fit we can based on what’s available. The shoppers take it home to wherever that is (tent, camper, room, apartment) and fake it. Welcome to the world of those who have no money for food.
Peace and food for all.
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Thurman Greco

Inspections in the Good Neighbor Food Pantry in Woodstock

“As I finish writing about this unpleasant part of my life, I tell myself that was then, and there is now, and the years between now and then, and the then and now are one.”-Lillian Hellman

As the coordinator of a Food Bank pantry, I was trained by, supervised by, evaluated by, and inspected by the Food Bank of the Hudson Valley.


A STAGE ONE INSPECTION   was  pre-arranged by either the Food Bank or myself.  The representative from the Food Bank showed up at the appointed time, carried a clip board with a form which was filled out. After the inspection, we all signed the paperwork, made small talk and the person left.

The questions dealt with the food on the shelves, how clean the room was, how far the shelves were from the walls. The Good Neighbor Food Pantry never passed this 6″ limit but no one ever said anything. The pantry room was simply too small.


“Thurman, how are you doing? I’m calling because we’ve received a complaint.  Someone called and reported  a shopper  standing outside the pantry crying. What happened?”

“I don’t know.  I’ll  get back with you as soon as I can find out?”

“When do you think we’ll hear from you?”

“As soon as possible. I’ll ask some volunteers and  get a handle on the situation. Thanks for calling.”

At a Stage Three inspection, someone called, wrote, or visited the Food Bank with enough venom, concern, clout (you choose the word) to cause a person to get up from his/her desk, go out to the parking lot and drive to Woodstock to inspect the situation in person on the same day.

MY FIRST STAGE THREE INSPECTION WAS THE RESULT OF A PHONE COMPLAINT, I THINK.   I never knew for sure. Things were urgent enough that a USDA inspector came out from Albany in a State of New York car. He was a handsome young African American  man (in his 40’s) wearing  a white shirt and conservative necktie. The minute he walked in the door, I knew something was up. After all, who ever comes to the pantry in Woodstock wearing a shirt and necktie?

When he left two hours later, he knew “what color my skivvies were” as my grandmother used to say. He went over inch of the pantry, asked a million questions and took a kazillion notes. This man not only found out everything there was to know about the pantry, he realized early on that I was a brand new coordinator.

HE BECAME A WONDERFUL TEACHER AND I LEARNED A LOT ABOUT HOW TO MANAGE A PANTRY FROM HIM.   I asked him a million questions back and also took a kazillion notes. When he left, I felt I had a friend and the knowledge I gained gave me confidence  in my performance. Needless to say, my score was wonderful.

When  in Albany the next week, I told one of the Food Bank employees about my   recent inspection. Her face blanched as I talked.  This gentle, well mannered, kind young man was the nastiest inspector on the circuit. He was only sent out when someone was really messing things up and needed to be “taken to the woodshed.”

A NOTE TO WHOMEVER COMPLAINED THAT DAY:   the inspection was thorough, fair.   I passed with flying colors.  Thanks!

One important thing I learned from him: It’s not necessary to ask shoppers for identification. No one is required to show anything to get food. The people do need, however, to share their names, the number of people in the household and how many seniors, adults, and children are in the household.


As he left, he had one suggestion:  get office space in the pantry.  He and I both knew that it  wasn’t going to happen. The building committee finally allowed me to  store records but I couldn’t use any space as an office.


AFTER I FINAGLED STOREROOM SPACE, I REQUESTED AN INSPECTION.   I wanted to avoid a confrontation further down the road if the room didn’t meet  Food Bank standards. We passed that inspection.


ONCE WE BEGAN OUR TAKE OUTS, A FOOD BANK INSPECTOR CAME OUT AND SPENT ABOUT TWO HOURS WITH PEGGY JOHNSON.   She answered all Peggy’s questions, got a very clear understanding of what Peggy was doing, how she was doing it, and who was receiving the food. When she left, Peggy was confident in her role of Take Out Manager for the pantry.

WHEN MIRIAM’S WELL WAS ON THE ROAD, WE HAD AN INSPECTION UNDER THE TREE AT ST. GREGORY’S EPISCOPAL CHURCH.   No one was ever more excited about that inspection than I. We were  proud of Miriam’s Well and how the shoppers were responding to the experience.

WE HAD ONE DISTURBING STAGE THREE INSPECTION.   I pulled into the parking lot one pantry day afternoon to find a Food Bank representative  waiting for me.

“Thurman, we’ve received some serious complaints about a volunteer stuffing her vehicle with food while hungry people are lined up and waiting to receive their food at the Mass Food Distributions. What is the story here? Is this a fair distribution of food?”

“I’ll look into it immediately.”

OVERALL, OUR INSPECTIONS WERE POSITIVE.   The only negative one was the inspection in the parking lot of the food pantry.

Peace and food for all.

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Thurman Greco

Treasured Belongings in the Food Pantry

Larger than life, the piece shows one eye, her nose and mouth.
Just beginning her studies at the Corcoran, Jennette wasn’t comfortable painting an entire face.
A photography major, she was painting for the first time in her life.
Sometimes I sit in my chair with my three Chihuahuas and just look at the painting for several minutes when I come home from the pantry. So much of this painting is relevant to what I’m doing now, what the pantry shoppers are experiencing.

As people travel the path to a pantry, they lose things. One shopper recently gave me three paintings. He was offloading personal possessions and just didn’t want to see them go to the dumpster.
I ALSO HAVE PAINTINGS GIVEN TO ME BY OTHER SHOPPERS.   If I stay in this business long enough, I’ll end up with a whole gallery. That actually  happened to Dr. Wayne Longmore, the absolute best physician in the area.

THERE’S A MORAL IN THIS STORY SOMEWHERE FOR ME.   I’m just not sure what it is yet.
Dr. Longmore, an Emergency Medicine specialist, was a Woodstock physician. He practiced by himself, without the help of a receptionist or nurse. He was favored by artists, writers, musicians as well as many other people from around here. Many felt he was the best physician in the area. The artists went to him with their health issues and he treated them with dignity and respect, whether or not they had money. Most of them had no money so, when he worked to make them well, they brought over paintings.

DR. LONGMORE FINALLY HAD THE BEST LOCAL ART COLLECTION IN THE AREA.  Then, the paintings and sculptures, given to him over the years by artist patients with no money, disappeared from his office after he was arrested. I never learned the real story of what happened.

The public story was that he prescribed too many painkillers…too much Oxycodone. The FBI Report referred to the product as hydrocodone. Well, the public stories in the  papers aren’t always the whole story or even a piece of a story.  I know that from personal experience.

DR. LONGMORE AND I KNEW A LOT OF THE SAME PEOPLE.  He healed them. The pantry fed them. Without even trying, I knew more or less who was on what. How could I not know? I saw them every week under fairly intimate circumstances.

I ONLY KNEW TWO PEOPLE ON OXYCODONE.   And, one of those two was trying to sell the stuff. So, they can’t blame Dr. Longmore for that.
He was sentenced to six months house arrest, three years probation, two hundred hours community service, and fined $200,000.00. The real punishment went to the poor in Woodstock who now have nowhere to go for a doctor. It puts a lot of pressure on the Healthcare as a Human Right group.

HIS OFFICE, JUST DOWN FROM LORI’S CAFE, SITS EMPTY…the office at 104 Mill Hill Road. I think of Dr. Longmore every time I pass by. I remember his beautiful art collection, all the down and out people he served, all the good the man did for Woodstock.

The place has a for sale sign,  a monument commemorating those in Woodstock who unfailingly give of themselves. Frankly, I don’t care if they ever sell it.
Thank you for reading this blog/book.
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Thurman Greco

Eat – Share – Give – at the Reservoir Pantry in Boiceville, New York

When we opened the Reservoir Food Pantry in September 2013, we served about 50 households  the first month. That, in itself was a large number.  This  June, 2014, we served 450 households consisting of 429 adults, 329 seniors, and 207 children.


Our food pantry is supported by an all volunteer group of people from the community at large. We’ve received much help from local businesses: Boiceville IGA, Boiceville Inn, Bread Alone, Roberts Auction, Wastewater Treatment Plant.
We’ve received help from local friends and neighbors who  help our mission.  We’re proud of the way our pantry volunteers have responded in these hard times.

WE ARE ALL ONE TRAGEDY AWAY FROM LIFE ALTERING CIRCUMSTANCES.  Sometimes it’s a health issue, an accident, the loss of a family member or a hurricane.

The gift you give makes a significant impact, helping us provide much needed food to give to people in our area.  You help us transport this food from the food bank to our pantry weekly…a vital part of our pantry operations.


BY CHECK:  The Reservoir Food Pantry, P.O.Box 245, Boiceville, NY 12412

BY INTERNET:  Go to  This link will take you right to the place on our website where the donate button is.

BY PHONE:  The Food Bank of the Hudson Valley accepts donations by phone.  Just call 845-534-5344.  Our pantry number is 2539f.  When you call this number and donate, you are giving to the Food Bank Adopt-a-Pantry program which is, by far, the most value you can receive for your generosity.  The Adopt-a-Pantry program gets you $10 dollars in food for every $1 dollar you give.  This is the most direct  way to be sure that your hungry friends, neighbors, and relatives will receive the most food possible.  Please tell Donna that you want to adopt the Reservoir Food Pantry and that our number is 2539f.

BY WILL:  That is one way you can be sure that the Reservoir Food Pantry will be around for future generations.

Thank you in advance for your generosity. Peace and food for all.

Thurman Greco-

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A Lesson I Never Learned in the Food Pantry

I NEVER LEARNED TO DISOBEY THE BOSS. And, I guess I never will. After all, I’m over 70. Chalk it up to dementia (She’s old and crazy and feeds the unworthy hungry”).

“SERVE YOUR SHOPPERS A THREE-DAY-SUPPLY OF FOOD. Each person gets food for three meals a day with each meal having three of the five food groups” the trainer at the Food Bank taught us. “Your agency needs to offer fresh fruits and vegetables, 1% milk, and whole grain breads.”

So I did.

Excitedly, I returned to the pantry with my car packed to the hilt with crates of grapes, Bolthouse carrots, 50-pound bags of onions and 100-pound bags of potatoes.

THE REACTIONS WERE STRONG – DISTINCT. “Wow Thurman! I never saw anything in the pantry like this before! Thanks!” said Dianne as she put her selections of produce in the shopping bag.

“Thurman! Thurman! Whatever you do, just don’t get our pantry shut down!” implored the church secretary.

“How can that happen?” I replied. I just didn’t understand what was in store for me.

I was the coordinator. I was just doing what the Food Bank said, after all. Besides that, the food was all totally free.


“Thurman, you don’t feed this kind of food to these people.”

“Thurman, this food is laden with vermin. Get this stuff out of here NOW!”

Except, it wasn’t. It was gorgeous, restaurant quality food donated by the Food Bank.

And I didn’t.  The hungry took the produce out in their shopping bags every week. They took it home, to wherever that was, and fed it to their children and family members.

And, the entire conflict was a secret for the longest time. I never told a soul about how angry the building committee was with my actions.

If I never told anyone, I felt, things would settle down and the building committee would slowly realize that we had new rules. And, of course, it took awhile for reality to sink in. Then, two things happened.

The building committee finally got very loud. They finally had an uprising which resulted in a series of meetings I called the inquisitions.


Some stories have good endings. Woodstock is now returning the Good Neighbor Food Pantry to its pre-2008 glory days.

I’m off in Boiceville where the Boiceville Inn, Roberts Auction, the IGA, and The Wastewater Treatment Plant people are appearing to feel positive about a pantry in the area.


It’s a glory day at the Reservoir Food Pantry.

Peace and food for all.

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Bread Alone, the Women of the Woodstock Jewish Congregation, and the Food Pantry

bread alone

The women volunteers of the Woodstock Jewish Congregation went out to the Bread Alone Bakery in Boiceville and returned with bread each week when it was their tour in the pantry.  After the third tour, Neshama, a volunteer, came up to me quietly.

“Thurman, our tour is finished here next week.  If you’ll send a car out each Wednesday, you can continue to get this bread.  Show up at Boiceville at 4:45 and you’ll get everything you need.”  With that statement, Neshama melted into the background.  I never even got to really properly thank her for this gift.  What a Mitzvah!’

I called Ann King.  “Hey Ann, can you help me out here?  You’re connected with Bread Alone.  Can you go out and get bread for us on Wednesdays?”

“Of course, I love to.  When do you want me to start?  I’ll call out there and get the ball rolling.”  To me, Ann King is the single most connected person in Woodstock.

After that, every Wednesday, Ann went out to Bread Alone in Boiceville with Prasida and returned with Vanessa totally packed with bread.  The haul included baguettes, sliced loaves in plastic bags, enormous loaves sold by weight in the stores, small specialty rolls, ciabattas, French loaves, sourdough loaves, sesame loaves, multi-grained loaves.  One week we did a cost analysis and the conservative total retail value of this weekly donation was $900.  The annual total value of this donation came to over $43,000.

Thank you to everyone at Bread Alone for your generosity.  Although I don’t know how many pantries exactly that Bread Alone donates bread to, my bet is that the number is large.  My feeling is that this bakery feeds the hungry in the whole area.


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Peace and food for all.



Thurman Greco



Ann King and the Food Drives at the Sunflower Natural Foods Market

Once a month pantry volunteers sat outside the entrance at the Sunflower Natural Foods Market asking for food.  One volunteer, Ann King, never came to the pantry to work but she was one of our most valuable volunteers.

Ann organized and managed our monthly food drive at the Sunflower Natural Foods Market.

Ann arranged the monthly date with Bob Whitcomb.

Ann scheduled the volunteers to come and sit at the table.

Ann had me arrive first on the day of the food drive with the table, chairs, sign, donation jar, and tent.  I set everything up outside the front door and stayed until other volunteers came to sit at the table.

Ann taught us to make eye contact with every person coming to the store.

Ann taught us to smile and tell them about the pantry and tell them what we needed.

Ann taught us to introduce ourselves to strangers, exchange names and memorize them for the next time the person came to the table.

The event was extremely important to our pantry because we got enough boxed almond (or soy, hemp) milk for the people shopping at the pantry to get a box when they visited the pantry.  Milk was a serious challenge for us because of our limited refrigeration situation.

When we needed it, we focused the food drive on cereal and received many bags of Arrowhead Mills puffed cereal.  In this way, Sunflower Natural Foods Market became an extension of the pantry.

The food drives were always held on Saturday.  After the food drive ended,  Barry went to the Sunflower with funds collected and purchased the food.  We picked it up on Tuesday morning when we could get it into the building.

We estimated once that Ann King’s efforts brought up $5000 worth of quality food every year.  Thank you to every person who visited our table and dropped money in our donation jar.  You helped a lot of people.

After several months of Sunflower fundraisers, Bob Otto joined in the effort.  He stood in the doorway of the Sunflower with a large milk pitcher and spoke to everyone coming in the door.  Bob was a one-person money generating machine.  He was polite, personal, professional.  No one could turn him down.  As the customers came to the door of the Sunflower, they opened their wallets.

Soon, Bob Otto was expanding his efforts to include a raffle sale one summer.  He spent every Saturday one whole summer in the Mower’s Meadow Flea Market entrance selling raffle tickets.  I sat at a small table beside him and helped the people sign the raffle tickets.  It was an amazing sight to watch.

We had food in the pantry in no small part due to the efforts of Ann and Bob.

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Peace and food for all.

Thurman Greco




Food, Sex, and Money In The Food Pantry

“We all come to our work, whatever it is, with our own peculiar set of biases, programmed into us by all we have experienced throughout our lives, including both everything done to us and everything we have done to others. – Susan Rabiner and Alfred Fortunato

If I’ve learned anything it’s that there are three words/issues more concerned with a person’s core beliefs, emotions, and spiritual attitudes than anything else. The big three are: sex, food, and money.
THESE THREE WORDS OFFER RULES FOR EVERYONE.   We each have core beliefs around these subjects with opinions about what’s okay and what’s not okay. We have attitudes about food, sex, and money based on what we were taught by family members and peers when we were children. We may have attended classes on these subjects. Also, we have guidelines we’ve made based on life experiences.

Reduced to their lowest common denominator, these words are the same. They touch our core beliefs in ways going straight to the heart and soul.
Reduced to their lowest common denominator, our attitudes, opinions, and feelings about feeding the hungry may or may not be based on facts, statistics, or reality. Nor can our attitudes be changed by facts, statistics, information.
Finally, you have beliefs about who it’s okay to feed and I have beliefs about who it’s okay to feed. My beliefs are based on life experiences, facts, statistics. Your beliefs are based on your life experiences, facts, statistics. I may take classes, go to therapy. You may take classes, go to therapy. And, your reality about what’s okay and my reality about what’s okay may differ. In the end, no amount of conversation, arguing, books read, TV programs watched will change these two perceptions. In the end, I have my beliefs and you have yours.

WITHIN A YEAR AFTER I BECAME THE PANTRY COORDINATOR, EVENTS CHALLENGED FOOD AND MONEY TABOOS IN OUR COMMUNITY.   Prior to this time, pantries weren’t expected to raise money. With the economic downfall of 2008, Food Bank employees realized that pantries were going to need more than they could get from the Food Bank. The solution? Raise money!
And, raise money I did. Using my own funds, I drove to Rowe in Vermont and took a Kim Kline class. I also bought, and read, her books.

Volunteers sat at a table weekly at the summer farmers’ market. Volunteers were in front of the Sunflower Natural Foods Market monthly. We rented a post office box. Mailers went out. Tom Pacheco held a concert.  Scott Petito, and Leslie Ritter  gave a holiday concert one Christmas.  (When they tried it again the next year, a snow storm interfered.) Gioia Timpanelli organized a story telling evening. Inyo Charbonneau sponsored a dance. Harriet Kazansky produced a music festival.

The first large donation came in at $500. It was a generous donation made to the Good Neighbor Food Pantry after I made a strong appeal to the Town Board.  It was my first public attempt to educate people about the plight of hungry people in our area.  I took the money, divided it among the different pantry congregations, and gave it to the pantry representations of each church.

“I raised this money. Here is your share to use when it’s your congregation’s tour in the pantry.”
Carmen Adler at the Christ Lutheran Church graciously accepted the money.
A woman  at Overlook Methodist Church took the money, stared at it,  then stared at me and then stared back at the money again.
When I went to St. John’s, the pantry representative received the funds for her congregation and  asked “What can I use this money for, Thurman?”
“Use it for whatever your congregation needs in the pantry when it’s your congregation’s turn” was my naïive answer.
When it was St. John’s tour, the volunteers all sported fancy new aprons embroidered with “St. John’s” on the front.
Thereafter, when the pantry received donations, I took the money to Pastor Bode of the Woodstock Reformed Church. He opened a bank account. I spent money for food, office supplies, and gas used in pantry activities. I took the receipts to Pr. Bode for reimbursement.

Money  spent on gas was used to get the food from Latham and Cornwall to the pantry weekly. And, thanks to the generosity of local residents, we kept the pantry well stocked with food. This is extremely important when one realizes that a round trip to Latham costs about $45 to return with 1200 pounds of absolutely free produce. AS FAR AS THE PANTRY WAS CONCERNED, 1200 POUNDS OF PRODUCE COST $45 AT THE FOOD BANK.   What a deal!

We set aside money for a building. I finally decided, privately, that the funds needed came to $500.000. A committee headed by Peggy Johnson began looking high and low for a building. She finally came up with the same number. It seemed as if the building owners in the Woodstock were sitting back, rubbing their hands together and waiting to see which building owner was going to win the money we were trying to raise from the townspeople.

Those people acted as if they were soooo tired of having a pantry in their building.
Those people acted as if they were soooo tired of having Thurman Greco as the pantry coordinator.
Those people acted as if they were soooo ready for their pantry to return to the glorious pre-2008 days when the pantry was open a couple of hours one morning a week, with a parking lot that was not overcrowded, and the unworthy hungry weren’t in the hallway.

Whatever.  We raised money.  And, thanks to the training provided by the Food Bank of Northeastern New York, our pantry weathered the storm following the downfall.

Food – That word caused more problems than any other for me as a pantry coordinator.

Who is it okay to feed?
How much?
How dare you serve that kind of food to this kind of people?
How dare you serve the unworthy hungry people?
How dare you feed people from outside of town?

Money – That word caused the second most problems for me as a pantry coordinator.

How dare you ask people for money at the farmers market?
How dare you send mailers out asking for money?
How dare you have fundraisers?
Peace and food for all.
Thank you for reading this blog/book.
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Thurman Greco

Abundance in the Food Pantry

Surrounded by abundance, poor people had trouble buying food that really nourished them. Fat was cheap and filling, vegetables were complicated and scarce, so salt, grease, and sugar reigned.” – Sara Miles

FOR ME, PANTRIES ARE ALL ABOUT ABUNDANCE. Abundance and gratitude. Churches see pantries as an outreach project. And, of course, outreach is a popular term.

Many congregations love to support feeding the hungry – especially if the funds go to feed a group of children in Botswana, Somalia, India. The farther away the better, it seems. It’s when the outreach is local that things get a little dicey.

FEEDING THE HUNGRY IN A FOOD PANTRY IS AN ACT OF GRATITUDE. When we feed people, we own up to the amazing abundance in and around us. We also face the fact that we are spiritually hungry. Feeding the hungry in a food pantry addresses this spiritual hunger issue head on. It also addresses the physical issue. Pantry shoppers and volunteers are both surrounded by abundance. There are millions of pounds of food available to pantries and soup kitchens throughout our fair land, all of it diverted from a landfill. There is absolutely no reason, no excuse, for anyone in the good old U S of A to go hungry.

Based on my experience in a food pantry since 2005, it’s my opinion that people having trouble with the spiritual issues begin to question who should get food and who shouldn’t get food. For some, feeding the “unworthy hungry” meant we were feeding freeloaders. But not all hungry people look needy. Some of the best dressed people in Woodstock never spend a dime on their clothes. For one thing, they have no money for clothes. For another, they shop in the free store closet at Family of Woodstock.

THE PANTRY HAD THREE SHOPPERS WHO ESPECIALLY DIDN’T LOOK THE PART. They were young women, with children, who drove late model SUVs. I don’t know if they knew each other but their stories were similar. Two of them had been married to men with influential employment and money. Neither one of them received one dime from the husband in the separation process.

The younger one had one son and couldn’t work because her husband seriously injured her when he threw her against a wall. Her recovery was slow. She always came with her eight-year-old son. I got the feeling they went everywhere together.
I noticed right away that she chose items from shelves where bending was not necessary. That left out many items but she wanted to be as independent as possible.

Another woman, Elizabeth, was a little older. She had a house full of children including a set of twins. She just couldn’t get it together to work. And, I doubt if she could have gotten employment in our area anyway. This lovely lady had a Ph.D. There weren’t many jobs available in her career field. And, of course, once a woman gets an advanced degree, the lower level jobs are just not open to her unless she hides the education. Sometimes education can be hidden. Sometimes it can’t. It all depends on the situation. The main thing is to get rid of it on the resume.

Elizabeth was very open minded about the food she selected. With five children, she basically took anything that wasn’t tied down. She qualified for cases of USDA. So, Elizabeth left the pantry with a case of pasta sauce, canned corn, green beans, vegetarian beans, refries, etc. Her kids ate everything. When she finished shopping, Robert Allen, our youngest volunteer, always brought out the cart to put her groceries on and wheeled them to her car.

The third person was in a slightly different situation. She was a volunteer in our pantry with a degree, a house, two adorable daughters, and a spouse with a job somewhere in Europe. The spouse decided he wanted nothing more to do with either her or the children. No money was coming across the ocean for her and the two children.

Laura was very happy to take the vegetarian items available each week. Her children loved fresh vegetables so there was much to choose from. Laura’s girls also looked forward to yogurt as a treat.

SO…HERE WE HAVE THREE FAMILIES with no money for food, (or much of anything else for that matter.)
So…here we have three households, single-headed households in need of food. If not for a couple of years, then at least for several months.
So…where were the fathers in all this? Not paying the child support, that’s for sure.

NONE OF THESE HOUSEHOLDS IS HOMELESS ALTHOUGH they might be when the tax collector comes to call.
None of these households is in rags although they might be when the clothes wear out.
None of these households is without transportation although they might be when/if the vehicle needs expensive repairs.
None of these household members look the part.


Thank you for reading this blog/book.
Please refer this article to your preferred social media.
Please send a comment.
Peace and food for all.
Thurman Greco