Hunger Is Not a Disease

I Need a Gun in the Food Pantry

“There is nothing that can’t be solved by the use of high explosives.” – Joshua Garner

“I’d like to get an application for a gun permit, please.” I said, the only little old gray  haired lady in the room.  I was finally first in  line at the government office at Golden Hill in Kingston.

The counter person, an overweight man in his 50’s, could hardly contain his laughter as he handed me the form.  “That’ll be $5 please, miss.”

I handed him the money and started to walk away.  Then, I just couldn’t stand it anymore.  I turned around to him and said pleasantly “Will you sell me 3 more applications, please?  I forgot  the girls in my Senior Yoga class asked me to get applications for them, too.”

I pulled out $15 more and put the money on the counter.  The man gave me three more applications and then I walked away.  I had no idea who I was going to give the applications to but I remembered the old “Alices Restaurant” song about three people or more people doing something and being a movement.

When I got home in Woodstock,  Barry was sitting on the sofa surrounded by his  cats as he read the latest thriller. “Hi Thurman.    How’re you doing?” he asked without looking up as he took a few grapes from a large fruit filled bowl on a table beside the sofa.  .

“I WANT TO LEARN TO SHOOT A GUN.  I want a gun.” I replied.  “I got the application today and I want you to teach me to shoot a gun.”


“I want you to teach me to shoot a gun.  I know you can.  You didn’t spend all those years sneaking off to the CIA and NSA  without knowing how to use a gun.    They even gave you a medal or award or something at the CIA once.  For all I know, you’re a damn bazooka expert.  Maybe I want to learn that too.”

“YOU CAN’T DO THAT!  You might accidentally shoot one of the Chihuahuas.”

“Well, I’m tired of asking pantry volunteers to be bodyguards.  It’s not safe when I’m working in the pantry after hours.  I haven’t felt safe since that incident with Mike and Mike and the air conditioner.  And, I’m not one bit afraid of the shoppers.”

“Listen, I know your job is difficuIt Thurman.  Not even a Marine drill sergeant would do what you’re doing.  But I don’t know about a gun.”

“I know, I know.  I should be more comfortable with everything that’s happening.  After all, I did live fifty miles from headhunters in Venezuela but that was all a long time ago.  This is the 21st century.  That Maglite  I bought a while back just isn’t the same as a club.  I need something more powerful.

“I’ve lived with guns my whole life.” I continued.  “My father wore a pistol every day to work in his law office.   Everyone in my family carried guns and had rifles in their cars.  My grandmother kept a rifle in her bathroom.”

” TG-YOU’RE JUST NOT THE GUN TYPE.   I don’t care what you say about your relatives carrying arms.  Besides that, I sold my last gun years ago.  What about a knife?  Let me teach you to use a knife.  A good knife will cost  much less and you won’t need a permit.  You won’t need  bullets.  It won’t require maintenance.  It’ll be easier to carry and use.  I’ll  give you lessons.  Nobody will ever know.  Leash up the Chihuahuas.  We’re going to Warren Cutlery right now.”

And, so he did.  He took me to Warren Cutlery.  I held several different knives to see how they fit in my palm.  My first choice didn’t pass muster.  “That knife is too big and too heavy” Barry said as he pointed to a smaller model.  “You need something small enough that you can open quickly.  If you’re too slow, your attacker will have you down before you get it open.”

So, I chose a smaller, lighter model that happened to be on sale.

And, off we went.  He taught me to use and carry a knife.  He taught me how to open it quickly but never bothered with teaching me to close it fast.  “That part’s not important” he said as he helped me practice.

And, he was right.  A knife is quiet.  It weighs less than a gun.  I don’t need a permit.  I don’t have to worry about shooting one of the Chihuahuas by accident.  And, unless I go through a metal detector before I take it out of my purse, no one has a clue.  I’m just a sweet little old gray haired lady in a Prius tootling down the road 5 miles below the speed limit.

Before it was all over, he bought me a second  knife…a smaller one which I kept open on the counter in the pantry ostensibly to open cardboard boxes.

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Peace and food for all.


School Days Are Here Again! – feeding the hungry


Hunger is a condition.  It accompanies malnourishment.  As Mark Bittman of the New York Times said:  “Hunger can lead to starvation; starvation to death.

School supplies, school clothes, shoes, coats, sweaters, lunches, snacks.


Nationwide, 17 million children go to bed at night hungry.  In many of these households, parents and older siblings go hungry so the younger ones can eat.

FOOD INSECURE SCHOOL CHILDREN HAVE A MUCH HARDER TIME LEARNING THAN THEIR WELL FED CLASSMATES.   Statistics from the Feeding America survey tell us that one child in five eats only as school.  Food Banks try to fill this gap by offering backpack programs in tandem with Food Pantries and Elementary Schools.  Lucky is the child leaving school   Friday afternoons with a backpack filled with nourishing food to eat over the weekend.

There are few to no Backpack Programs in our area so the volunteers at the Reservoir Food Pantry work overtime to secure enough food for families with school children.

Only 2 weeks ago pantry volunteers were outside the Kingston Walmart for three days soliciting peanut butter and jelly for school sandwiches.  These volunteers will return  on September 4th, 5th, and 6th to ask for food for school lunches.

On Saturday, September 27th, we’ll be outside the Boiceville IGA asking for food for school children also.

If you can drop by either of these places with a donation, we’ll be extremely grateful.  If you can’t make it and want to send a donation, please send it to Reservoir Food Pantry, P.O.Box 245, Boiceville, NY 12412.  Either  way:   dropping by the store or sending a check, we’re grateful.  The food will be used to   feed hungry children.


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Peace and food for all.

Thurman Greco


Meetings, Meetings, Meetings: Preparing for the next Big One

“If one person, just one person does it they may think he’s really sick and they won’t take him.  And, if two people do it, in harmony, they may think they’re both faggots and they won’t take either one of them.  And if three people do it, three, can you imagine three people walking in singing a bar of Alice’s Restaurant and walking out, they may think it’s an organization.” – Arlo Guthrie

Disaster Preparedess, Response, and Recovery

Hudson Valley Farm Fresh

Shelter Committee

Volunteer Workforce

Feeding Committee

Community Animal Response Team

The list continues.  Groups have been meeting  for months.

THE FOCUS IS ON THE NEXT BIG ONE.  I’ve attended some because, as a pantry coordinator,  I’ll be involved somehow.    After a hurricane or other disaster, the people visiting  a pantry can be frightened, confused.

A pantry coordinator after Irene and Sandy, I experienced first hand the face of tragedy worn by the shoppers after they lost homes, jobs, cars.

AFTER IRENE AND SANDY, I TRIED TO INTEREST WOODSTOCK PEOPLE IN PREPARING FOR THE NEXT BIG ONE.   I was too soon.   The response was silence and cold stares.

Now, a group works to minimize future damage.  The thought, planning, preparation, is significant, thorough, detail oriented.  Many people are  important in this endeavor:  Michael Berg from Family, Robert  Lamoree from Community Action, and Michael Raphael from American Red Cross.   Beth McLenden from UlsterCorps, John Scott from Bruderhof, Stacey Rein and Su Marcey from United Way, and a deeply involved group supporting these people.  Representatives from FEMA, Homeland Security, Office of the Aging, Alcoa are doing their part to move this preparations along.

THERE ARE OTHERS – MANY OTHERS.  What’s important is not  the names.  Everyone does whatever is necessary  to minimize disaster damage and to be more effective responders:

They’re seeking out community leaders and residents to identify shelters, feeding stations.

They’re planning innovative strategies to reach more people.

They’re making efforts to identify those who will need assistance.

They’re working to get as many people trained as possible.

FOR MANY, THE EFFORTS ARE HERCULEAN   I see legacies being left as people work.  I  see careers boosted.  But, let me state here:  I don’t think  even one person is focused on either legacy or career ladders.  Everyone is focused on disaster preparation, response, and relief.

Every Monday afternoon at 2, Reservoir Food Pantry volunteers gather behind Robert’s Auction and distribute food to people whose lives were seriously impacted by Hurricane Irene and Superstorm Sandy.  Many still do not have their lives repaired.

Our disaster preparation focus at the pantry is how to feed shoppers during and after a disaster.   We’re trying to identify the older homebound persons who might not be on anyone else’s radar screen.

FOR THIS, ‘HYPER LOCAL KNOWLEDGE IS NEEDED’.  Unfortunately, Ulster County is a large, diverse plot of land.  Few know the entire county intimately.  Disaster Preparedness, Response, and Recovery Committee people are scouring the entire county and gathering information, planning…working hard to have Ulster County ready for the next Big One.


On Tuesday, August 26th at 10 am, there will be a Phoenicia/Shandaken Area Disaster Workforce Planning Meeting at St. Francis deSales Parish Hall in Phoenicia at 109 Main St.


On Tuesday, September 2nd from 5 to 9 pm, there will be an introductory training at the Ulster County Sheriff’s office, 380 Boulevard, in Kingston.  I’m going to attend this one.  Can you come too?

And, on Saturday, October 18th, Alcoa/American Red Cross will sponsor an Emergency Preparedness Event from 10:30 am to 3 pm at Alcoa Fastening Systems, 1 Corporate Drive, Kingston.


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Peace and food for all.

Thurman Greco




Food Pantry Blog – Whew!

Such a day!  Such a week!  Even I can’t believe all of it.  But, I suppose actions speak for themselves.  And, I have to realize we’ve been working towards this week for a whole year now.

Volunteers at the Reservoir Food Pantry are living proof that excitement can make a person drunk.  We were intoxicated on gratitude all day  Monday.

For starters, Prasida went off to Latham early Monday morning and returned at noon with almost 700 pounds of fresh produce – gorgeous produce.  Corn, greens, potatoes, onions, carrots, herbs, spinach, apples, apricots, peaches, melons, beans.

And, while Prasida was off on 87 doing her thing, the two Bobs,  Pat and I were over at the Hannaford’s getting our very first monthly shipment.  With a lot of planning and praying, this went off without a hitch.  This is a huge step for our new little pantry.  We’re working on a standing appointment at 11:30 on delivery day!

Then,  we made our way over to the pantry and set up our tables.  The spread, under a gorgeous sky, was the best ever.  And, to celebrate all this bounty, some of us worked the distribution tables serving  groceries from the Food Bank, Migliorelli Farm, Shandaken Community Gardens, Bread Alone, and Esotec.

Others  measured shelving for the new shed we just put behind Robert’s Auction.  At one point, Sean went off to purchase same so we can get it installed.

By the end of the pantry day, we were all so excited we weren’t touching the ground.

We’re soon to celebrate our first anniversary!  We hope you’ll come out between 4 and 7 on the afternoon of September 11th.  We won’t be hard to find.  We’ll be in the adorable red shed behind Robert’s Auction in Boiceville.

Come out and see what all the excitement is about.  Come share some refreshments.  Come see where people pantry shop in the Reservoir area!

Peace and food for all.

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Thurman Greco



Why Don’t You All Go Out and Get a Job?

I’m sorry I’m late to work in the pantry today Thurman.  I promise it won’t happen again.  I was over at the pet store until just now unpacking and stacking the dog food.  They gave me food for Chloe and Freedy in exchange for working today.  I promise it won’t happen again.”

“Alice, don’t worry at all.  Robyn happened by.  Sometimes I think this pantry is charmed.  People always surface when we need them.  It’s very important for you to get pet food and you know how the building committee feels about  pet food in the pantry.”

WHY ARE SO MANY PEOPLE IN NEED OF A PANTRY?  Why are there so many people in our country today?  What is happening?

Employment opportunities are a large part of the problem.  People find themselves down and out in places where there are few jobs.  Young people graduate from high school or college and can’t find employment.

The downturn of 2008 erased many job opportunities.  When the economy finally does recover, many of these jobs won’t be returning.  My fear is that the recovery will create a new, large class of citizens permanently living in the poverty of underemployment and unemployment.


Education costs are a factor.  Fewer and fewer people can afford college these days.  Some are afraid of the college loans they might not be able to pay off.  One young  woman in our line works 60 hours weekly in low wage jobs to repay her loan.

A fairly common question I hear in the  pantry line is “Are you working on or off?”  What they’re finding out with the question is how many hours a person is working on the books and how many hours off the books.  Not only is this illegal but it’s robbing our younger generation of any benefit accrual, and the opportunity to pay taxes.


Our country needs to make a few fundamental attitude adjustments.

One important shift is to realize that food stamps, food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters are no longer emergency concepts.  They are a new way of life in 21st century America.  When we accept this fact, the shame factor will be removed and seniors and children will sleep better at night unaccompanied by their old friend hunger.

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Peace and food for all.





Grandpa Woodstock


Father Woodstock, Grandpa Woodstock, or whatever you called him, showed up here almost 20 years ago.  The story goes that he was homeless.  At least, that’s what he told me in the pantry one day.  “I’m the luckiest man in the world Thurman.  I lived a homeless life all these years until I found the lovely Lady Estar.  And, here I am now, married to a beautiful woman with 3 houses.”

Father Woodstock, Lady Estar, and their beloved dog Hector, visited the pantry every Wednesday afternoon right according to schedule.  Hector waited outside the door in the colorful cart Father Woodstock had made for Lady Estar.  Hector had a special little seat in the back of the cart.  As far as I know, he never tried to jump out.

The only time they missed a pantry afternoon was when they took the bus somewhere and went on a vacation to get out of the heat  in Woodstock.  Maybe THAT has something to do with why he was arrested.  He and Lady Estar didn’t go anywhere this August.  Our summer this year was just too cool and too wonderful.


Father Woodstock came to town and became the most colorful of the colorful.  Everyone loves him…especially every woman he comes in contact with.  I, personally, loved him more than the others when he came into the pantry carrying his walking stick with the horn attached.

“YOU LOOK LOVELY TODAY!” he always said with feeling as he  tooted the horn for emphasis.  “Toot.  Toot.”  My heart melted.  Because, in reality, working in the pantry was tough with  watchers counting the minutes, checking the hallway lines, complaining about the cardboard, and me feeding the unworthy hungry.  For the few minutes that Father Woodstock came in the pantry to shop, none of it mattered.

LONGTIME RESIDENTS RECALL THAT FATHER WOODSTOCK PACKED UP HIS WORLDLY POSSESSIONS AND TOOK OFF FOR BIXBY, ARIZONA EACH WINTER ON THE BUS.  Boy, that must have been a trip!  I can just see Father Woodstock now, entertaining everyone with stories, peace sign salutes, and telling all the women how beautiful they were.  I think I would’ve loved the trip.  There never would have been a dull moment, that’s for sure.  Toot.  Toot.

ABOUT FIVE YEARS AGO, FATHER WOODSTOCK AND LADY ESTAR FELL IN LOVE.  What a pair!  They’re perfect for each other.

As they wwere out in public,  he and Lady Estar were always  beautifully dressed.  They both wore silk…flowing silk skirts and beautiful silk kimonos.  They  had a nice selection of lovely silk jackets.  Their wardrobes consisted mostly of floral prints in their favorite color:  red.

BOTH FATHER WOODSTOCK AND LADY ESTAR WORE THEIR DRESSES AND SKIRTS LONG.  Their toenails were always painted.  They wore Teva sandals.  They both had long flowing silky silver hair and beards.

Father Woodstock liked to come to the small pantry weekly and choose foods he and Lady Estar could serve to the homeless people they entertained.  As he chose apples, oranges, carrots, he  commented to other women shoppers how beautiful they were.  “Toot.  Toot.”

THE MAN MAY NOT HAVE MEANT A WORD OF IT…HE PROBABLY DIDN’T MEAN A WORD OF IT.  Now that I think about it, Father Woodstock was probably the best actor in town.  But, nobody cared.  For the moment, life was beautiful.

So, here we have a scene…a pattern…a reputation.  Father Woodstock conducted himself in a certain fashion all these years in Woodstock.  Everyone knew him, residents and tourists alike.  He trained us all to smile when he came around.  He trained us to gather around and ooh and aah when he posed for photographs with a peace smile and sign.  “Toot.  Toot.”

IN HIS OWN WAY, FATHER WOODSTOCK WAS AN AMBASSADOR FOR THE TOWN OF WOODSTOCK.  People came from far corners of the globe as well as just one or two towns down to catch a glimpse of him, his colorful cart, and his peace sign.  In his own way, he brought  much money to Woodstock because when the people came to see him, they also bought a cup of coffee, a meal, a “find” at the flea market, a pair of shoes at Pegasus, or a necklace at Gwen’s Gems.


So, if he’s been possessing and selling drugs, paraphernalia, and pharmaceutical equipment for the past twenty years, why did they wait until the full moon in August, 2014, to throw him in the slam?

Oh well, that’s Woodstock for you.

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Peace and food for all.

Thurman Greco

Take Outs – Why People Can’t Get To The Pantry

“Thurman, why are you delivering food to her house?  She’s got children.  One of them has a car.  He can bring her. ”

“Thurman, nobody who has a car should get food delivered.”

“Thurman, he’s got some money.  You can’t take food to him.”

THERE ARE ALWAYS THOSE WHO CANNOT MAKE IT TO THE PANTRY.   Delivery service is not always available in every pantry. And, there are always others  who feel  delivery service is an exclusive experience for the freeloaders.
My stance is that those who need delivery service are the neediest of all.
“Hello, Mr. Roberts. How are you doing today?”
“Thanks so much for coming Thurman. I’ve been getting meals from my neighbors but they didn’t make it over yesterday so I’m out of food and haven’t eaten since yesterday morning.”
“Well, have you got any snacks to tide you over when this happens?”
“Not really. And, anyway, I can’t walk anymore. I can barely make it to the bathroom.”
“What about Meals on Wheels?”
“Can’t afford them.”
“Aren’t you getting hospice? When is the hospice lady supposed to come?”

MANY HOME BOUND PEOPLE ARE ELDERLY.   The —–(you put in the body part here) no longer works, the person becomes home bound.  Unless this older citizen has a large support group, life can be challenging.

The best approach for dealing with the needs of the home bound, especially the elderly, is to encourage  them to use the pantry before they are home bound.  But, this can be a real challenge.

GETTING A SENIOR CITIZEN TO USE A PANTRY CAN BE DIFFICULT.   But the food is there and they should be encouraged to use not only the pantry but the soup kitchen and SNAP.  Then, when they become home bound, they will already have a support system of sorts which can be adapted to their needs.

Current statistics, from the Feeding America survey, for seniors in our country tell us that one senior in seven does not get enough food.  When this happens, the senior is at risk of illness.

WHEN THE SENIOR GETS SICK THE CHILDREN AND GRANDCHILDREN MUST TAKE CARE OF HIM/HER.   Proper nutrition is a good disease prevention measure.

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Peace and food for all.

Thurman Greco





Thank You to Everyone Who Helps Out

Pantry HND1

THE RESERVOIR FOOD PANTRY OPENED LAST SEPTEMBER 9, 2013, TO VERY LITTLE FANFARE.    As we approach our one-year anniversary, I am amazed at the number of people we are serving.  We offer food  weekly behind Robert’s Auction on Monday afternoons at 2:00.  We deliver food to one senior community on Tuesdays.  We deliver food to another community on Fridays.  In between, volunteers deliver food to homebound individuals in the area.

Our success is the result of much thought, work, and planning on the part of the volunteers, and generosity on the part of area residents who provide food and funds whenever asked.

AS A NEW PANTRY IN THE FOOD BANK SYSTEM, WE’RE CONTINUALLY BUYING FOOD, GASOLINE, REPAIRS, OFFICE SUPPLIES, INSURANCE.    We cannot ever, not in our wildest dreams, provide this much food to this many hungry people without the support of those around us .

You, our friends and neighbors, open your wallets and kitchen cabinets every time we ask.

Monthly, pantry volunteers stand at the entrance to the Kingston Walmart for three days asking for food and/or money to feed the hungry.  The generosity of the Walmart employees allowing us to solicit for funds and the generosity of the store shoppers responding to our plea is mind boggling.  We will be standing in front of the Walmart today, Thursday, and Friday.

EVERY OTHER MONTH, WE’RE OUTSIDE THE BOICEVILLE IGA ASKING FOR FOOD.   People are always very generous to our plea.

We receive weekly food donations from Bread Alone, Migliorelli’s, and Shandaken Gardens.

I CANNOT EXPRESS OUR GRATITUDE ANY MORE PLAINLY THAN THIS:    without your help, our pantry cannot exist.

Thank you.

Peace and food for all.

Thurman Greco

The Homeless Visit the Food Pantry

“Homeless is not a category of people.  It’s just a situation that happens.  It can happen to anyone.” -Salvador Altamirano-Segura 

In some respects, the homeless have problems just like you and me…

mental illness

physical disabilities

domestic violence

HIV issues




Finally, many are also veterans.


Homeless people, families come into pantries very quietly.  They’ve lost their voice.  The goal is to melt into the background, get food, and disappear.

There are  reasons for this.  They are often suffering from mental illness in addition to homelessness.   Homelessness accompanies a number of mental illnesses including schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.  Mentally ill persons have a tendency to become chronically homeless.

This can create an exception to the voiceless rule as the person communicates with beings unknown to the rest of us in tongue we don’t understand.  One shopper at our pantry has been in another world since before I began working at the pantry.

According to, there are over 250,000 seriously mentally ill homeless persons in our country.  This statistic is very telling.  What it says is there are more homeless people with untreated severe psychiatric illnesses than there are people receiving care for their diseases.

I see the sidewalks of whatever town or city I’m in as nothing more than wards for the untreated mentally ill.  They mentally ill homeless suffer with all the day-to-day survival that all homeless have and, to top it all off, they’re sick.


For starters, they have no address.  This can be a real hindrance if a pantry bureaucracy requires such.  In some communities in this area, several kind souls allow  the homeless to use their location as a mail drop/address so they can receive the services they so desperately need and so they can register to vote.

Many pantry coordinators have no concept of the food needs of the homeless.  Because the homeless have their kitchens in their shirt pockets, they food they use is very limited:  protein/cereal bars, peanut butter, crackers, fresh fruits and vegetables to be eaten raw:  blueberries, carrot sticks, celery, lemons, lettuce, limes, milk in pint containers, nuts, oranges, strawberries, sweet peppers, tomatoes.


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Peace and food for all.

Thurman Greco


A Vision Quest at My Desk


It barely holds my laptop, the desk is so large in my life.  For, at this desk, I am on a vision quest.

Some of my friends went on Vision Quests over twenty years ago when we were all in our fifties.  These adventures mostly included travel to places like Macchu Picchu, or boating down the Amazon, or living in an ashram in India…things like that.


Well, I’m on a vision quest now…at my neighborhood food pantry in scenic Upstate New York  where I’ve seen things, heard things, felt things, learned things that I never would have even in my wildest dreams thought possible before 2005.

I’ve had the unique and precious pleasure to become intimately involved with artists, child abusers, children, church committees, church boards, crazies, the disabled, druggies, drunks, elderly men and women, hardworking people juggling two and three jobs, homeless, mentally ill, messed up people, ministers, monks, musicians, pastors, people battling terminal illness, poets, politicians, priests, rabbis, schizophrenics,  thieves, veterans, volunteers,  Woodstock’s colorful characters, writers in that tiny pantry room.


I’ve seen people in the depths of despair regain their dignity.


I’ve done many hundreds of other things too…including becoming a student at Gotham.

For the past year, in classes taught by Melissa Petro, Carl Capotorto, Allison Stein,  Michael Leviton, and Cullen Thomas, I chronicled these conflicts.  The skills I learned  offer even more adventures.

I’M ON THIS ADVENTURE TO THE FINISH NOW.    Last year, I didn’t even know what a blog looked like and now I’ve got two.

The first, I began in January, is a textbook on Reflexology which I’ve been teaching from for years.

The second blog, “Hunger is not a Disease”, is the story of hunger as told through the eyes of a small town food pantry.

On behalf of hungry people everywhere who frequent food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, I thank you for reading this blog/book.

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Peace and Food for all.

Thurman Greco