Hunger Is Not a Disease

What About our Hungry Neighbors, Anyway?



I hear variations on this theme  from people who’ve never been near a pantry.  They fantasize that food pantries are visited mostly by people with expensive cars, designer clothing, beautiful  jewelry,  fancy jobs; freeloaders who aren’t hungry and don’t need the food.


So, now, I offer you a chance to glimpse at what hunger really means.

Imagine what life would be like if you lived without enough $$$ to buy the food you need to feed yourself and your family.

Because…these people are neighbors.  You may not recognize those around you who suffer with hunger and who miss meals.  Open your eyes a little and you’ll see them all.  You’ll know the names of some, the addresses of others.  You’ll even find a relative or 3.  These individuals represent millions more because hunger in our country is an epidemic.

AND, LIKE OTHER EPIDEMIC DISEASES, HUNGER DOES NOT DISCRIMINATE.    It’s found in all races, all religions, all communities, all categories, and every educational background.

Enlisted men and women in every branch of service are counted among the hungry. They stand tall in our front lines and in our food pantry lines.

Retail workers ring up the sales at cash registers in the check out lines of big box stores and sell us high end merchandise in  upscale boutiques in communities from shore to shore in our great nation.  When they are not ringing up our purchases they can often be found working a 2nd or even 3rd job.

The hungry also serve us food, clean our houses, grow the food we eat,  tend our lawns, launder our clothes, and otherwise do the necessary grunt work.  They care for our children in our homes and daycare centers.

Try going through your day without them.  Their poverty subsidizes our wealthy lifestyle.

People don’t usually grow up aspiring to spend their adult lives working at 2-3 seemingly meaningless dead end jobs.

There just aren’t that many options for many people these days.

The kitchens of the struggling class  where the hungry live  usually feature 1 or 2 appliances:

crock pot

electric skillet


Often a working refrigerator is not part of the furnishings.

The kitchen cupboards have a few items:

a small bag of flour,



A couple of onions and a few potatoes may be in a bowl on the counter.

Unless the person we’re visiting has found a pantry offering fresh vegetables, there is no fresh food.  If the person has found a pantry, these things will be available  in small quantities.

SOME HUNGRY PEOPLE YOU SEE/KNOW MAKE UP A NEW BREED OF THIEF – FOOD THIEF.  They rob grocery store shelves, not cash registers, to get the food to feed their families.

A food pantry is a final destination on a journey down a path to the bottom.  Along the path, people shed  personal items and personal beliefs.  They come to a food pantry, admitting to themselves that they’ve gone about as far down as they can get.  They’re  unable to provide the most basic need life has to offer…food.

Omitted from this equation is that our whole system has failed.  When a person shops at a food pantry, s/he experiences individual hunger and also wholesale, widespread hunger – and looks our nation’s political failure straight in the eye.

Hunger in America is a silent and devastating disease, hidden as much as possible from our population at large.  But, there’s a question here:




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Peace and food for all.

Thurman Greco


This Winter in the Pantry

RFP-Tent (1)

January, 2015,  is turning out to be such a marvelous time  in the pantry!  I just couldn’t let it go by without thanking you for all the support and contributions you made  as we began our project.

On September 9, 2013, as we began work to make the Reservoir Food Pantry a reality, none of us (Bonnie, Sean, Prasida, and I) had a clue about the real needs of people in the area.  Working in the pantry this month I’m coming to realize existentially what is really happening there.

Take our monthly delivery day for example.  January 12th  was dismal.  Nobody in his/her right mind would venture out of either house or home if it weren’t absolutely necessary.  Both volunteers and shoppers who could get out of their homes  proved  how valuable this little pantry in a shed has become.

Volunteers who could get out of their houses drove on icy roads to Kingston to pick up our monthly food shipment.  We loaded the food onto 4 vehicles, drove  it to the pantry, unloaded it and shelved it.

Meanwhile, Prasida and Francine drove to Latham and returned with 1300 pounds of beautiful produce.

All  this work was done during an icy rain, in unheated buildings, and on snow covered ground.

That was one level of motivation.  And, why not?  After all, we’re the volunteers…that’s what we’re expected to do.

Shoppers came to the pantry  as if the sun were out, the grounds were dry, and the breezes warm.  They stood in line outside the pantry and patiently, cheerfully waited for their turn to shop in the tiny little shed to get badly needed food for their households/families.

Oh me of little faith.  Shame on me.  Until delivery day I really didn’t know how the people in the reservoir area really felt about our pantry.

Well…as people tell me all the time “Now I know”.

I walk more confidently now.

Hunger as we know it in our country is both infuriating and shameful.  To fight this scourge…

We need schools that work.

We need communities that work.

We need support systems which offer people caught in poverty a fair chance to succeed.

Although safety nets in our society are almost gone, food pantries are flourishing in communities all over America.  Food pantries cannot fight poverty.  They can only alleviate hunger…a vitally important task in our community.

We looked everywhere along Route 28 for a home for the Reservoir Food Pantry. We finally created a jewel behind Robert’s Auction.

So, to everyone in the area…thank you.  With your support, the Reservoir Food Pantry is a success today.  We could never have done it without you.

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Peace and food for all.

Thurman Greco



Round 2 in the Food Pantry World – Food, Sex, and Money


ARE YOU OLD ENOUGH TO REMEMBER HOW WE ACTED IN HIGH SCHOOL?  Everyone in class knew  the which students were acting right, following the rules,  and those who were not.  There was no privacy, really, and no secrets.

WELL, GUESS WHAT.  The same mentality exists in food pantries.  Everyone knows which pantries play by the rules and which ones don’t.  There are no secrets.

FOR ONE THING, THE SHOPPERS CAN TELL BY WHAT KIND OF FOOD THEY’RE GETTING.  Is  the food on pantry day composed of bent cans, stale bread trimmed in green, and frozen food which has obviously been refrozen more than twice?  If the answer to that question is “yes”, then it’s pretty obvious someone besides the shoppers is getting the fabulous produce, the wonderfully fresh Bread Alone Bread, and the quick frozen meats and veggies.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out the volunteers are taking it all for themselves and their neighbors.


PANTRIES COME EQUIPPED WITH COORDINATORS WHO ARE TAUGHT THE RULES .  These coordinators are trained by, supervised by, and evaluated by the Food Bank.  Boards,

Church Committees, and volunteers are often surprised to learn that Food Bank supervisors do expect certain levels of performance from coordinators.

Until now, the Food Bank was quiet about what was happening.  Well, that attitude has changed.

IF YOU WORK IN A PANTRY THAT FORGOT THE RULES, or if you know about about a pantry with volunteers who forgot the rules, be prepared to expect a surprise or two in the coming months.

THE FOOD BANK HAS RULES.  The rules have teeth.  The Food Bank is no longer interested in keeping secrets.  After all, our court system is pretty open.  Misdemeanors and felonies are part of the public record.

Over the past few months, the Food Bank has terminated a few agency memberships.  Why?


sold Food Bank products for their own profit.

kept food for themselves or gave it to family and  friends or other volunteers.

used products for unapproved activities.

forgot there are health standards and that pantries and pantry storerooms should be kept clean.

THANK YOU FOOD BANK.  Those of us working in honest pantries have hoped this would happen.  Personally, I feel that there are very few pantries operated by people who make up their rules as they go along and have no respect for the Food Bank.  These people are, however, ruining the whole scene for all of us.

If you shop at or volunteer at a pantry where the rules are not followed, please call 1-518-786-3691 and report the issue.

On behalf of honest pantry volunteers and hungry shoppers everywhere, thank you for reading this blog/book.

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Peace and food for all.

Thurman Greco

Everybody Needs a Reality Check.


The Kingston, NY  Walmart is our reality check.  We sit outside the store every month asking for food to feed the hungry  (except December when the Salvation Army gets the sidewalk).    Three solid days of speaking with the people entering and leaving the Walmart tells us more about the economy, the state of the American people than any fancy reports, economic reviews, sophisticated papers, magazines.

“Just asking for a donation to help us feed the hungry at the Reservoir Food Pantry.”

“What do you need?”

“Peanut butter, soup, canned beans.  Actually, anything you select will be given out on Monday.”

This month was no exception.   The weather was bitterly cold.  We all wore all the clothes we had and brought blankets.  No amount of extra gloves, sweaters, long johns, blankets worked against the cold.

We covered the 2 doors…just barely.  We had 1 person at each door from 10 ’til 4 all three days.  And, we could never have done it without the help of the customers who kept us all energized by opening their wallets as they ran past on their way to the building.

Prasida sat at one entrance all day every day.  The rest of us spelled each other at the other door.

There was the usual miracle:

This month we had no food for takeouts because the door to the takeout room was frozen shut.  So,  people donated exactly the amount and kind of canned/boxed foods needed for the takeouts.  We didn’t specifically ask for this food.  It just happened that way.

Our hearts were warmed repeatedly by the generosity of the shoppers.

Even though the place was cold beyond description, we feasted on the view of the mountains.

In spite of all the stories on TV and in the papers about jobs, jobs, jobs…we saw a completely different story.  We saw people:

with no coats.

counting their $$$ to be able to get just the items they need.

whose shoes were not warm enough.

who had no hats or gloves.

whose transportation situation was desperate.

whose positive mental attitude  resisted all efforts to beat a person down into the ground.

The energy of those customers will sustain us all on an even keel until our return visit in February.

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Peace and food for all.

Thurman Greco

It Takes a Community


ONE PERSON ALONE CANNOT KEEP A FOOD PANTRY GOING.  I’m always reminded of this in the winters when:

it’s cold in the pantry,

snowy outside,

life is tough for the homeless.

This time of year, there are always wonderful surprises which keep my heart going. Last week, I got a call:

“Is this the Reservoir Food Pantry?”

“Yes it is.  How can we help?”

“Well, can you send somebody over here to pick up a few things?  Our store employees  had a food drive over here  and I don’t think anyone told you about it.”

Wow! I thought.  “Sure, I’ll be down in an hour.  Where do I come?”



So, I got in the car and drove over to pick up a few things the employees had collected.  They underestimated their collection a little.  It filled up the car.  Food, cleaning supplies, items of dignity, clothes.  One of the employees had knitted 2 gorgeous afghans!  Another employee gave us a box of clean, very gently used baby clothing.

EVERY ITEM…FOOD, CLEANING SUPPLIES, APPEARED TO BE NEW.   When all the things were stuffed in the car, it seemed  every employee in the store had given  something.


WE REALLY APPRECIATE THESE DONATIONS OF FOOD AND CLOTHING KS .  We  have many shoppers and there are few stores in Boiceville.  Most of the people shopping at our pantry have both money and transportation issues which make  trips to Kingston difficult.  Some shoppers have very limited finances so $$$ for a winter coat is a real challenge.


Lisa Libraries  donates new books for anyone who wants to read or who needs to give a gift.  These donated books are free and available to anyone wanting a book.

If you want to donate food, clothing, cleaning items, items of dignity, household items, please drop these items off at 12 noon on Mondays.  CHANCES ARE GOOD THAT WHAT YOU DROP OFF AT NOON WILL BE IN ITS NEW HOME BY  4:00.

We thank you in advance for your generosity.

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Peace and food for all.

Thurman Greco




I’m not Focused on Poverty



The subject is




To tackle poverty in this country is almost an impossible task.

Ronald Reagan said “We fought a war against poverty and poverty won.”

How  a country as rich as ours can have so many hungry people  is an embarrassment, a scandal.  How can we let this happen?

How can we go about our lives every day just ignoring the millions of poor and destitute people?

How can we simply watch a new class, the struggling class, spring up and  pretend it isn’t happening?

I’ve explored these questions for some time now and have finally come to the conclusion that I don’t have the answers.

This is the same question I ask when I explore the question of how the Nazis were allowed to slaughter so many Jews in the 30’s.  I don’t know how this happened either.

However, there is one thing that I do know.  I know that it is within my power to feed people and I can write about it.

I can’t find nonexistent jobs for them.  I can’t get $$$ for their healthcare.  I can’t get $$$ for the exorbitant rental prices they endure.

What I can do is offer  soups, fresh veggies and fruits every Monday afternoon at 2:00 and I can tell the world on my blog.

For now, because that’s all I can do, I have to be satisfied with this.

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Peace and food for all.

Thurman Greco

At the Intersection of Hunger and Health


I write 2 blogs.  One is about hunger and food pantries.  The other is about heaGNP65lth through the lens of reflexology.  They are two very different subjects,  However, they definitely have an intersection point:  disease.

People suffering with food insecurity, resource poverty, or who are the struggling poor experience a whole set of diseases based on what is or is not available for them to eat.



Heart disease.

Actually, these diseases can all be condensed into one:  diabetes.  Because, when a person has diabetes, the disease isn’t just diabetes.  Diabetes brings several other diseases right along with it:

heart disease


kidney disease

Hunger, food insecurity, overweight/obesity, and supermarket abandonment all go hand in hand with diabetes.

I’ve gotten to the point where I can “see” a struggling poor person walking down the street.

And, of course, the situation with the hungry/poor  is  not a problem with a person individually.  The entire issue is wrapped up in the community as well.  People with jobs paying enough to buy healthy and affordable food  have better health.

People with no jobs or minimum wage jobs often live in food deserts with  no access to food.  Without a working automobile, they are forced to live off food sold in gas station food marts, pharmacy food aisles.

Fortunate indeed is the struggling class person with  access to a pantry offering nutritious foods.  Fortunate indeed is the  struggling class person who has SNAP and can get to a good grocery store.

Kingston, NY has several really good food pantries and is also the winter home of the Farm Stand located in Kingston Community Action at 70 Lindsley  Ave.  Every Tuesday morning at 10:00, a truck load of fresh vegetables arrives from the Food Bank of the Hudson Vallley.  Last week they had potatoes, onions, squash, apples, parsnips, cabbages, cauliflower, and beets (among other delicious veggies).

Anyone can shop at the Farm Stand.  All they ask is how many people are in your household.   The Farm Stand opens every Tuesday morning and is open every morning until the fresh produce is gone.

Please  visit the Farm Stand.

Please tell your friends, neighbors, relatives about this wonderful example of our tax dollars at work.

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Peace and food for all.

Thurman Greco


“What’re You Doing?”


“What’re you doing?” she asked. For a minute, I didn’t understand what was happening.  We were all crowded into the pantry.  I was trying to make sure the shoppers got through the tiny shed with all the groceries they needed (and qualified for) without anybody getting squashed.

“What’re you doing?” she asked again.  Then, I realized she was trying to talk with me about something in the midst of this chaos.  Sometimes people do that.  They decide to have a conversation…to get to know the people in the room better possibly.  Often, they want to know more about a product or maybe get a recipe.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Well, I’m thinking about 2015.  This place has changed so much over this past year.  When I first started coming here, there were only a few of us.  Now look around.  There’re people everywhere.  You open the pantry now every week about 2 hours early.  The boxes are piling up outside.  We’re all so happy you’re here and we’re all so grateful for the food.  I know you can use some more help.

“Can you give anything away?  What do you have to do to get a little freedom?  How can you get a lighter spirit?”

WOW!  Talk about God in the pantry!  I thought a minute as the people moved through the tiny shed choosing a can of soup, a gallon of vinegar, a small bottle of water, a box of crackers.

But, I only needed a minute.  What do I have to do to get a lighter spirit?  Well, in order to lighten the load, I need to give something away…


Every week our pantry is totally overrun with empty boxes at the end of the pantry day.  By 4:00, everyone is tired, grumpy, winded, bushed, fatigued…you name it.  And, what do we look at?

We look at a mountain…an actual mountain of cardboard.

When I thought about giving away those empty boxes, my heart began to sing.  I felt as if I was as light as a feather.

What a wonderful opportunity this shopper had given to me…to everyone at the pantry, actually.  She gave us the gift of vision.  Once a vision exists, reality can follow.  So, I began to visualize a pantry with 0 discarded boxes at the close of the pantry day.

I was energized by this vision.  I realized what needed to happen was the reality of the vision.  The energy needs to follow the intent to create the reality.

So, 2 thoughts came to me.

The first thought was to give away the boxes…1 by 1.  That’s how they do it at the Food Coop in Great Barrington.  When a shopper goes to the Food Coop there, s/he chooses the cardboard boxes needed to carry the groceries out of the building.

So,that’s what we’re doing now.  Beginning just a few minutes after the shopper started talking to me, I asked everyone to take home a box.  That, of course, didn’t get rid of all the boxes.

But, it did make a huge dent in the pile.

I’m also asking everyone I meet at the pantry “Who can haul off the boxes at the end of the pantry?”  I’m sure as sight that someone will surface to take the empty boxes to a dump somewhere.

There is someone out there who wants to volunteer at the pantry, who has a pickup or SUV, and who knows where a convenient transfer station is.

Maybe you know someone.  Maybe you can do this.  If your answer is “yes” please drop by the pantry on Monday afternoon about 4:00 or call 845-399-3967.

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Peace and food for all.

Thurman Greco

Resolutions for 2015


The ad in the New York Times read:

Lighten up.

Get to know your neighbors.

Pick your battles.

Although that ad was actually written for the Museum of Modern Art, it could have been written just for us.

Resolutions at the Reservoir Food Pantry  scream at us as our shoppers clearly point the way ahead in 2015.  We’ve narrowed the choice down to just a few so we can successfully carry them out.

Resolution No. 1 – Lighten up.

And, lighten up we will.  We’ve actually begun to do just that.  At the end of every pantry day, we have only a few fresh food items left.  Last Monday’s pantry ended with  6 squashes and a small bag of spinach.  We can’t get much lighter than that.

In 2015, we’ll continue  going to Latham weekly and returning with food to distribute on that day to the many who come and those we deliver food to.  No longer will we be bringing 5 or 6 of something to the pantry.  We’re going to be looking for items that have 80+ available.  If we can’t find 80+ of something, it won’t come in the van.

Reservoir Food Pantry food is both a supplement to what people can find in other places and a necessity for those whose income doesn’t last the entire month.  We’re not a pantry anymore.  We’re a food distribution center.

Resolution No. 2 – Get to know our neighbors.

Although we’ve only been open since 2013 and we’ve had very little “press”, word is spreading rapidly.  A pantry is a community within a community.  It’s important now for Reservoir Food Pantry to open its doors so everyone in the area knows about us, understands us, knows our mission.

Resolution No. 3 – Pick your battles.

Fighting hunger is not for sissies.  The effort required to take on this fight is larger than life almost.  The rewards are also larger than life.  We need volunteers to help distribute food.  Not only do we have more people shopping at our pantry, we also have more home bound people requesting services.

We need people to:

help deliver  food to the homebound.

work in the pantry itself on Monday afternoons.

dispose of the mountains of cardboard we generate every Monday afternoon.

bring the monthly shipment over from Kingston.

If you’re interested in working in the pantry, please join us on Mondays at noon at the pantry.  Or, call me at 845-399-3967.  Those who help in the pantry understand the importance of the work and get much pleasure from it.  They realize what they are doing is necessary and they get very attached to the job.

The economy has changed dramatically since 2005.  Both Irene and Sandy contributed much to local changes.  Food stamp cuts have all but removed any safety net a person may have had.

Reservoir Food Pantry offers a client food distribution system where the hungry shop weekly with dignity for  fresh produce, baked breads, and canned and packaged goods.  People come to the pantry for healthy foods to  sustain themselves and their households.  We deliver food to those who cannot come to the pantry.

When we feed people, we strengthen the entire community as we assist those who are most vulnerable.

Thank you for reading this blog/book.

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Peace and food for all.

Thurman Greco

Thurman Greco