Hunger Is Not a Disease

Statistics, Statistics, Statistics in a small town food pantry in Woodstock, New York


“In many cases, homelessness is caused by extreme misfortune, not the lack of motivation by people who suffer from it.”-Elaina Wilson

EVERY MONTH  we (pantries, soup kitchens) send our statistics to the Hunger Prevention Nutrition Assistance Program (HPNA) people – the government. Numbers tell it all: how many seniors, adults, children in how many households came by for a three-day-supply of food. Except…sometimes the numbers really don’t tell it all.

A Wednesday afternoon in the pantry prepares the statistics for the HPNAP people:
“Hi, how are you doing today? Can you sign your name here? How many people are in your household? The line isn’t too long today. Things seem to be going pretty fast.”
“Nice to see you Mary. How’re things going for you?”

“Thurman, we’re so glad we could make it here today.   We’ve been having a little bit of a rough patch lately. Our three grandkids are coming tomorrow and we don’t have any food in the house at all.”

Or…”How are you doing today? Your hat is just beautiful. I bet it’s one of the ones you made yourself. Glad to see you.”

“I’M NOT DOING TOO WELL TODAY.   I got evicted and I’m moving in with my friend Mike. And, he lives in a studio over on Simmons. Thurman, this year has been such a struggle. Here I am, a talented, well educated woman. I just can’t seem to overcome the obstacles I’m being faced with. I can’t get a job. My efforts to start something have just not worked at all. I’m so sorry to be unloading these things on you but, right now, there’s just no one else.”

IN THE RESOURCE POOR CATEGORY THE FAMILIES CHOOSE BETWEEN FOOD AND  utilities, food and housing payments, food and medicine or medical care, food and transportation, food and gasoline. This category chooses between everyday necessities and food.
Or…”We haven’t seen you in awhile. How’re you doing?”

“ACTUALLY, I’M DOING PRETTY GOOD.  I GOT THE BONE MARROW TRANSPLANT SCHEDULED  for next month and now I’m looking for someone to go down with me to the city to help take care of me when I get out of the hospital. I have to stay in a motel for three months after the transplant and they won’t let me get the transplant until someone promises to go and be with me. Do you know someone who can go with me? Thurman, I have absolutely no money to pay this person. I’ve got no money left at all. I know you aren’t allowed a bulletin board but can I put up some kind of notice somewhere for help?”
“I wish we did. But the building committee won’t allow us to put anything on the walls. I’ll try to spread the word, though.”

MANY PEOPLE SERVED BY PANTRIES LIVE IN  poor health or without access to adequate medical care. About 50% of pantry shoppers have unpaid medical or hospital bills. This lack of insurance can be financially devastating to a family when illness strikes. The longer a person is uninsured, the worse the health becomes.

Or…”Hey Chuck, how’re you doing? We haven’t seen you in awhile.”

“Not so good Thurman. I’ve got to have neck surgery again. This is going to be the third time. I’m not even supposed to be out today but I’m completely out of food.”
Or…”Good to see you Bob. We haven’t seen you in awhile. What’s happening?”
“Well, Thurman, my car’s engine died so I can’t get out of the house. I’m completely out of food so I begged a neighbor to bring me here today.”

MOST PEOPLE SEEKING FOOD ASSISTANCE LIVE IN  households existing below the Federal Poverty Line. About 75% of these people nationally earn less than $17,000 per year for a household of three.

Or…”How’re you doing today?”
“Fred’s still in the hospital. He’s been diagnosed with kidney disease and is on a special diet I’m so glad you had me go see Dr. Longmore. He told me exactly who to go see, what paperwork to get…everything I needed to get care for Fred. Because, Thurman, you know that I don’t have a dime. He’s going to get out of the hospital soon and will be on a special diet. Thank God the pantry has all these fruits and vegetables. Thurman, I don’t know what we would do without this pantry. You know we have no money and are living right on the edge. I’m hoping you have some laundry soap today.”

Or…”We haven’t seen you in a looong time. How’re things going?”
“WELL, IT’S BEEN A VERY COLD WINTER.   I’ve been having a little housing trouble. I was camping out on Meads Mountain but I got caught and fined $500. So, I picked up my things and moved in from the road another thousand feet. I don’t think anyone can see me from the road now. And, I’ll tell you Thurman, it’s cold up there.”

Taken from the perspective of the people in the line, the statistics tell it all…just like it is.

1063 households
1464 Adults
537 seniors
616 children
That about tells it all.
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Peace and food for all.
Thurman Greco

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