Hunger Is Not a Disease

No Money, No Time In The Food Pantry

Three categories of poor  are similar in some ways but very different in others.
However, they really are on the same path when it comes to time and money. These categories are the employed poor, the underemployed poor, and the unemployed poor.
The underemployed poor person has a specific mantra. “Work, work, work.. For all I work, I have absolutely no money and I have no time to eat if I had any money for food.” The woman who always says this when she can get to the pantry works at a  health food store, cleans apartments and homes, dog walks, and house sits.
I always hate to hear these words – the people who talk about having no time and no money have no waistlines either. So, when they talk about having no time and no money, they mean it. They mean they have no time to eat and no money to buy the food if they did have the time.
Before 2008, the “no time, no money employed poor, struggling poor” category really didn’t exist in the pantry world.
Now, I see more and more of them every week.
Thank God! At least they’re managing to get some food when they can make it to the pantry.
And me? Where do I fit in all this? Well, more struggling poor means more work for me.  More volunteers,  more trips to the Food Bank.
It’s called job security.
Peace and food for all.
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Peace and food for all.
Thurman Greco

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.
Thanks for reading this blog/book.
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Peace and food for all.
Thurman Greco

Motel 19 and The Good Neighbor Food Pantry




“When we talk cooking and eating, we are talking love, since the entire history of how a family loves – where and how they learned to love can be told in most kitchens.” – Marion Roach Smith
EVERYONE COMING TO A PANTRY TRAVELS DOWN A PATH. For many, this journey is a real load lightener. As the finances erode, the housing goes. And, of course, when the house or apartment goes, most of what was in it, goes too.
Furniture, kitchen items, toys, clothes, tools, garden implements, books, photos, souvenirs – by the timne a person or family gets to Motel 19, things have been slimmed down to a few clothes, a blanket or two, a hot plate, or maybe an electric skillet. Maybe a toy or two if there are children.
ABOUT 40 HOUSEHOLDS ARE LUCKY ENOUGH TO BE IN MOTEL 19. Half of these households are composed of individuals. The other half are families. For the families living in Motel 19, the children are usually eligible for the school breakfast and/or lunch program. But, that doesn’t give them enough to eat at home. And, there’s no lunch program for the adults.
So…it’s off to the pantry.
PANTRIES ARE IMPORTANT FOR PROVIDING FOOD. If someone in a household can get food, bring it back to whatever and wherever is home at the time, prepare it, and serve it, a feeling that some part of the family’s routine has returned to normal. This act of preparing and serving food can be very grounding to everyone in the household.
Soup kitchens are wonderful places for people to eat but can’t substitute for pantries. Pantries are cheaper to maintain, for one thing. A soup kitchen staff, needed to prepare the food, serve it, and clean up after each meal, is more expensive than a pantry staff. Soup kitchens purchase napkins, cutlery, etc. Pantries are generally composed of volunteers. Soup kitchens have paid staff. Soup kitchens are absolutely essential for those who have no kitchens or roof at all.
Because of the cost of gas, several families at Motel 19 pile in a car and come over on pantry day. Or, an individual hitchhikes.
THE PEOPLE LIVING IN MOTEL 19 ARE, ON ONE LEVEL, VERY FORTUNATE because a minimum wage worker can easily work more than a week just to pay the rent on a tiny apartment or room.
Not everyone in a low-income household can get into Motel 19. Low-income wage earners are forced to choose between rent, gas, health care, and groceries. Living in this situation means living with hunger on a daily basis.
Motel 19 is a real lifesaver for many people sent over from the Department of Social Services when they’re homeless. Individuals, couples, families. Each household, whether one person or a family, gets one room at Motel 19. The room is furnished with a single bed, a bathroom, a small refrigerator, a microwave, and a TV. The place is a functioning motel so the residents also get clean towels and sheets weekly.
At one time, Motel 19 had a restaurant on the premises but it’s been closed awhile. Word on the street is that a pizza restaurant is coming soon. There’s a car dealership in the parking area outside the front of Motel 19. Shamrock Sales has about five or six used vehicles for sale. No one seems interested in them.
BAD BACK BOB MADE MOTEL 19 FAMOUS FOR US because, when he began coming to our pantry, he spoke about his neighbors and also brought some of them over to shop. This was a real accomplishment because these people, though very fortunate to be living in Motel 19, are trapped without transportation. Motel 19 is located at the intersection of Routes 28, 209, and 87 on the edge of Kingston. Without a bicycle or car, any person trying to get somewhere is looking for a long hike.
Imagine being a young mother with an infant or child trying to get to a grocery store, doctor, or even a soup kitchen for that matter. IMAGINE WALKING DOWN THE HIGHWAY WHERE CARS ARE TRAVELLING faster than 45 miles per hour with this infant or child in your arms. Add rain, freezing rain, or a snow storm.
Bob always thought about his neighbors when he volunteered. He reminded us that not everyone can deal with the bureaucracy of a pantry and he always took some of his three-day allotment of food home, cooked it in his crock pot, and shared it with these special neighbors.
And, Bob is right. On the one hand, our pantry has very little bureaucracy because we never ask for any ID or documentation. We ask only that the person give us his/her name, the number of persons in the household, and the breakdown of seniors, adults, and children. We need those statistics for the monthly Hunger Prevention Nutrition Assistance Program report. We’re given our line of credit for food based on these numbers. The more households, seniors, adults, and children, the more food for our pantry.
Even though the pantry has very few documentation requirements, we more than made up for the paperwork with our building guidelines. Everyone, including volunteers, was only allowed in the building during certain times…no exceptions.
When it was time for the shoppers to be allowed in the building, they were invited in five people at a time. The shoppers were allowed to stand in a single file line in the hallway. There were only three chairs available in the hallway and there were typically over fifty people waiting in line. No one was allowed to touch the walls. The wait in the hallway was often over an hour.
PEOPLE CAME INTO THE PANTRY ROOM IN GROUPS OF FOUR. They went around the room in a single file and were in the room no more than three or four minutes. They shopped for a three-day-supply of food which lasted for seven days.
THIS POST SENDS OUT A SPECIAL REQUEST: Motel 19 residents really need pantry services. Walking down Route 28 to get into Kingston is challenging for some and scary for others. Life would be beautiful if some kind souls can open a Pocket Pantry. Or maybe some other pantry in Kingston can send over food every week. Or maybe some mobile food pantry can include Motel 19 in the regular route. Contact me if you have questions.
Thank you for reading this blog/book.
Please share this article with your preferred social network.
Please send a comment.
Peace and food for all.
Thurman Greco