Hunger Is Not a Disease

Can we break down the barriers?

GNP41Starving seniors?  Is that too harsh a term?

Let’s ratchet it down:  hungry

Or maybe:  food insecure.  Yeah, that’s better.  It sounds better anyway.

Call it what you want, the event is the same.  It’s your grandmother or grandfather (for me…I’m certainly a grandmother) caught in a situation where there’s simply not enough food in the house.


The issues with seniors and food insecurity are serious because when seniors no longer have the $$$ to buy the food they need for proper nutrition or when they can no longer pay for the medications they need, they become ill and finally end up being taken care of by their children or they end up in a nursing home.

I know  stories about:

The older Woodstock woman living on mashed potatoes.

The woman who ended up in a nursing home when she was cut off from her take out food and didn’t have the resources or physical ability to get to a grocery store.

The older man who lacks funds for enough food and is slowly starving to death.


IF they can get to a pantry or connect with a pantry offering take out

IF they will sign up for SNAP (food stamps).

I was recently speaking with a retired man I know:

“Richard, do you get SNAP?”


“Why, Richard?  SNAP is usually easy to get.  All you have to do is apply.”

“Well, I’m getting by alright without it.  Let someone else, needier than me, get the $$$.”

“Richard, think about getting SNAP.  This is a benefit you paid for.  This $$$ is waiting on the table for you.  You’re not the kind of guy who leaves $$$ on the table.”

I HAVEN’T CONVINCED HIM YET.   However, we’re not through negotiating.  As seniors, we’re in a situation where every little bit helps.

THE BARRIERS SENIORS PUT UP TO SNAP ARE GREAT.  Seniors resist going to a pantry, soup kitchen, getting SNAP until they simply cannot resist any longer.  I know the feeling.  We grew up as children and went into adulthood feeling that if we worked hard and paid our taxes, we would end up okay.  We worked all our lives with this event in sight and now that we’re here…there simply isn’t enough.

With this event comes the feeling of inadequacy and the self blame.  “I must have done something wrong.  Here I am living hand-to-mouth.  I don’t even have enough $$$ for food.  What did I do wrong?”

THERE’S SOMETHING WRONG WHEN A WHOLE GENERATION OF PEOPLE BEGIN BLAMING THEMSELVES.  We’re really not totally to blame.  The rules have changed.  Because we’re retired, we’re not in the rules making game anymore.  Retirees by their very nature are disempowered.  Whatever happened to the Gray Panthers?

FOOD INSECURITY AMONG SENIORS IS AN EPIDEMIC.  People  work on both a state and national level to make SNAP more available to seniors.  The least we can do is get a card and use it.

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Peace and food for all.

Thurman Greco

Something Every Pantry Needs

Igiene intima
“I’m happy to inform you that the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York received a grant from….to assist your program with its food needs. Your agency, Reservoir Food Pantry (2539f), has received….from this award! It is a pleasure to share this good news with you and to know those you serve will benefit from this gift.”
Immediately, I think about all the things I can get for the pantry with this gift:
toilet paper,
This $$$ will be put in our pantry account as a grant to help us get food and other supplies from the Food Bank. This grant is called an “Adopt-a-Program” grant, or AAP for short.
Once the gift is specified for us, the amount goes directly into our line of credit. And, this gift is worth so much more than the amount donated. At the Food Bank, the AAP funds are more valuable than if the $$$ were used at a supermarket. The Food Bank estimates the amount is 10 times more valuable. This grant is very important for getting items of dignity: toilet paper, tampons, razors.
These grants are very important because they free up other funds for pantry projects. With these grants we’ve had $$$ available for other projects in the past months. Because the struggle for food is lessened, volunteers have energy for other activities in the pantry.
We have a new, used, Chevy econoline van which makes food hauling tasks easier for Prasida and Francine.
We received 2 new 20 cubic food freezers which completely upgrade the way we feed the hungry in the pantry.
We’ve brought a grant writer volunteer on board. She’s attending classes, doing research, and has written 2 successful grant requests already.
THE TINY RESERVOIR FOOD PANTRY WAS RECENTLY RANKED THE 9TH LARGEST PANTRY IN ULSTER COUNTY. For me, this is nothing short of amazing. After all, we only opened in September, 2013.
IN SHORT, WE’RE GROWING, GROWING, AND GROWING. We need every dime you can spare.
You can participate in the Adopt-a-Program grants. You can deposit a gift into our AAP account 3 different ways.
One way is to call the Food Bank of Northeastern New York at 1-518-786-3691. When you tell the receptionist you want to make an AAP donation, please specify that you want the funds to be earmarked for the Reservoir Food Pantry #2539f.
You can also go to the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York website and donate there. Click on the “Donate Now” button to use the secure online donation form. There you can enter the donation, and direct it to our pantry. You can also, if you prefer, set up recurring donations which will be automatically charged to your account: monthly,
You can also mail a check to the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York, 965 Albany Shaker Road, Latham, NY, 12110. Again, please specify the Reservoir Food Pantry #2539f.
Thank you in advance for your generosity. Remember…your donation of $10 will purchase $100 worth of product for the food pantry.
Peace and food for all.
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Thurman Greco

JSY…What’s that? Nutritionist Education!

Although we see her only once  a month, everyone knows when she’s coming and they gather in the Community Room at  Woodstock Commons early to be sure a get a good spot for her presentation.  Amy is one of the pantry’s favorite people.

So, who is  Amy Robillard and what makes her so fancy anyway?

Amy is the Just Say Yes nutritionist from the Food Bank of the Hudson Valley of New York State.

Food pantries, soup kitchens, and emergency shelters,  through the Food Bank of the Hudson Valley offers nutritionist education, a service to our shoppers: a nutritionist who gives talks along with cooking  demonstrations to the shoppers.

Although some people feel like this is a luxury that poverty stricken people shouldn’t have, I feel strongly that the food pantry nutritionist education is a necessity, not a luxury.  Amy gives classes in cooking and serving fruits and vegetables.  Very often the shoppers in the pantry line take home foods that they’ve never seen before, do not know the name of, and have no idea how to prepare and eat.

Amy teaches simple and affordable ways to eat more fruits and vegetables.  She makes learning about nutrition and food safety both fun and easy to understand.  Amy has a series of 11 different lessons that she shares over the course of a year.  During this time, she will share over 100 different recipes which are low cost, easy to prepare, and delicious.

With Amy’s information, nutritionist education, and encouraging attitude, the shoppers take new foods home with them each week which they feed to their families.  This is an important part of the pantry shopping experience.

Often, the new shopper has lived on less than 10 foods for his/her entire life.  It is not unheard of to speak to people who have lived on beans, bread, and greens their entire lives.

To visit with a shopper after a year of shopping in the pantry is to interact with a totally new person.  The experienced pantry shopper knows much about foods:

their nutritional value

their origin

how to prepare them.

We  begin to notice changes in a pantry shopper within 6 weeks of the first visit.  The very first changes we see are a straighter back, a more confident walk, clearer skin, smiles.  People look better, walk better, and interact better socially when they are no longer afraid of living with hunger.

Amy helps facilitate this.  She teaches them how to cook with pantry food.  She makes them feel at ease at the  pantry.  She normalizes a hidden, stressful experience as she removes the negativity. .

I wish all pantries had a nutritionist on board.

Reservoir Food Pantry is happy to have Amy come visit whenever she can.  We’re grateful to be on her schedule.

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Peace and food for all.

Thurman Greco

The Freezers Came This Week!

RFP-Tent (1)
The freezers came this week! These beauties are 20 cu. ft. upright Frigidaires brought over by Snyder’s. We feel very special here at the Reservoir Food Pantry because they will change life in the pantry as we have known it in the past.
EVERY ADDITION TO THE PANTRY CHANGES LIFE HERE DRAMATICALLY BECAUSE WE’RE SUCH A NEW PANTRY. There’s so much going on over here that I have trouble keeping up.
Since September, 2013, we’ve gone from a homeless pantry whose volunteers delivered food to homeless and home bound people. In the first few weeks we were open, over 40 households found us.
Then, we landed a spot outside the Waste Water Treatment Plant, put up a tent, and served the hungry. I vividly remember the Monday afternoon we served 18 households. “Don’t worry” I told everyone. “In no time at all, we’ll be serving 25.” A couple of people looked at me with expressions of total disbelief.
Yesterday we served over 90 households in the pantry shed.
Two weeks ago we got the dumpster.
So now we’ve got
a shed,
a long line van,
a produce room,
a dumpster,
a website,
a facebook page,
a free bookstore compliments of Lisa Libraries,
the best volunteers in the world.
We’ve got other things too but I have trouble keeping up.
Only last week I learned that we’re ranked the 9th largest pantry in Ulster County.
“Is that true?” I thought. We’ve only been open a very short time. How did this happen?
But, back to the refrigerators:
We got them because of a collaborative grant request effort of several area pantries under the direction of Michael Berg at Family and Beth McLendon of UlsterCorp.
But, this isn’t the end of the story. It’s more like the beginning of the story…even though the beginning goes back to about 2007 or so when a HPNAP (Hunger Prevention Nutrition Assistance Program) directive offering preference to refrigerator and freezer requests in pantries in our annual HPNAP grant requests.
HPNAP wants us to use freezers and refrigerators because fresh/frozen food is more nutritious than canned. And, when HPNAP wants something, they usually follow through with funds.
Our little Reservoir Food Pantry in Boiceville routinely offers the absolute best, most nutritious, most delicious food possible for our shoppers…thanks to the freezers which go with our refrigerators. Hungry people shopping at our pantry eat fewer and fewer canned foods, many of which are heavy on salt, and dented.
Instead, hungry people shopping at our pantry choose cheese, yogurt, frozen veggies, fruits, meats. They also choose fresh fruits and vegetables brought down weekly by Prasida and Francine from Latham in our lovely long line van.
They take home eggs, milk, butter, and other refrigerated/frozen foods.
With the freezers and refrigerators, our take out packers don’t worry about running out of canned food. Instead, they go to one of the freezers and choose from the selection there.
This is your tax dollars at work. I say “Let’s all vote a raise for the HPNAP people!”
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Peace and food for all.
Thurman Greco

Walmart and the Minimum Wage

As the country’s largest employer, Walmart gets criticized for many “wrongs” not exclusive to itself.
Although retailers throughout our country only pay minimum wages, people act like Walmart is the only one. They pretend the other retailers pay over $10 per hour and include wonderful benefits like health care and retirement.
Most retailers pay what Walmart pays – maybe even a little less. In our own Woodstock area, retailers not only pay less, they often pay their sales employees off the books.
So, the recent news of Walmart and the minimum wage hourly rate increases to $9 per hour is an excuse to celebrate, if nothing else. Walmart is a trendsetter! Hopefully this move will motivate other retailers to do the same.
Those of us who work in pantries fantasize we’ll have fewer people in our lines. In some locales, I’m sure that may be true.
However, I harbor no fantasies. For one thing, the people in our pantry line are mostly senior citizens too old to work. For another, those young enough to hold down jobs work for companies who aren’t going to raise the wages.
Over the past few decades, we’ve created a food system for the poor. The more affluent in our country shop in super markets. Everyone else shops at the convenience store, pharmacy grocery aisle, the food pantry.
Because of the situation created in recent years by food deserts, the underemployed or unemployed poor struggle to get enough food to eat while also trying to get the right kinds of nutritious foods needed to stay healthy.
Over the years, food manufacturers, farmers, grocers, corporations, foundations, individuals, and the government work together to provide surplus food to feed those in need.
The goal: give food assistance to the hungry.
Since 2006, the need for emergency food has morphed into an ongoing need for food for people from all walks of life.
The new paradigm is to feed them nutritious food regularly because these people can no longer buy the food to feed themselves.
Many find themselves in this position for the first time in their lives. There are now men, women, and children needing assistance to alleviate hunger in every county in every state in the union, as well as the District of Columbia.
High unemployment/underemployment, increasing housing costs, rising poverty, the rising cost of fuel to heat apartments and homes, increasing transportation costs, and the escalating cost of food make emergency food assistance become supplemental food assistance.
Financial safety nets disappear as congress repeatedly cuts benefits.
Today’s pervasive hunger undermines our communities, schools, work force, and national security.
When people don’t have enough food to eat today, it’s impossible to plan for tomorrow. People with enough to eat work better and learn better. They can build a better life for themselves and their families.
This is what Walmart raising the minimum wage is all about.
Raising the minimum wage a few cents or dollars is not about solving the problems of poverty. It’s about feeding the hungry.
Thank you Walmart, and every other employer in our country who pays workers a living wage. You are to be commended. Hopefully this will start a trend toward employers everywhere paying living wages to workers.
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Peace and food for all.
Thurman Greco

Is This Life Now?

The New York Times – Friday, February 27, 2015 – “Food Waste Grows with the Middle Class” – page A24
A recent New York Times Editorial highlighted the “massive food waste” around the world. I urge you to read it. It was extremely well written, as are all of the NYT editorials.
Containing all the right buzz words:
waste disposal,
global warming threat,
it just didn’t go far enough.

FOOD PANTRIES FEED THEIR CLIENTS SURPLUS FOOD INTERCEPTED ON ITS WAY TO THE LANDFILL. They simply no longer have the $$$ for food at the supermarket or they live in food deserts (neighborhoods where there are no grocery stores or supermarkets.)

Is this life now? Yes, this is life in 21st century America. This is not emergency food. This is the new way we live in the good old U S of A.

PEOPLE ARE OFTEN ASHAMED TO SHOP IN PANTRIES. They don’t want to be seen bringing pantry food home. They don’t want to explain to their friends, neighbors, relatives about their inability to buy food at the supermarket. Well, now they can move on past the shame and embarrassment. With this New York Times editorial, we can all see that hungry people lacking $$$ to purchase food at a grocery store are now a part of the solution instead of the problem.

Hungry people shopping at food pantries help fight food waste. Food pantry shoppers can now realize they are helping reduce global warming emissions.

People shopping at pantries are in a financial bind where they are forced to make trade-offs. They pay rent when they don’t have enough food to eat. They “heat or eat”.

Often, they make health care trade-offs. People unable to seek needed medical care are unable to make good choices. Eventually they’ll be forced to deal with the medical situation and the longer they wait, the more expensive the situation becomes. The healthcare $$$ has been diverted to rent or transportation to get to work.

Articles like the New York Times editorial make it difficult for citizens in our country to completely ignore the fact that more and more people are going without food in our great nation because they simply don’t have the $$$ to buy it. We can no longer deny that hunger exists and it is becoming more and more difficult to be indifferent about it.

So, now, with this editorial, those of us who are hungry and ashamed of the situation we are caught in can feel better about ourselves. We can now shop at the pantry and eat at the soup kitchen knowing that we are, in spite of the low wages we work for, doing our part for a healthy planet. We are fighting global warming. We are our tax dollars at work.

If you read this blog and feel you are among those who don’t have enough $$$ for food, now is a good time to begin to shop at a pantry for the food you need for your household.
There is no better time than now for you to not only support your community but also your planet.
See you at the pantry!

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Peace and food for all.
Thurman Greco

Are You Afraid in the Pantry ?

“Are you ever afraid in the pantry?” the woman asked. She was at a talk I gave about hunger. “No.” I answered. “Never. Not in the pantry. The pantry is a safe haven.”
But, I did understand her question. It went much deeper than fear in the pantry. This woman was reaching out. We live in perilous times. ISIS, police, illness, hurricanes, rapists, purse snatchers, you name it. Danger appears to be everywhere around us.

Many, many people live in fear. Many of those are afraid to voice their fears.
When I write about specific health issues on my reflexology blog, fear is almost always a factor.
Well, there are things we can all do to cope. There’s no need to live a life feeling vulnerable.
For starters, we can protect ourselves. I practice several different forms of protection.

Every Saturday morning, promptly at 9:30, I can be found entering the Fitness Connection in Kingston where I study self defense under trainer Paul LaCroix. I’m there for an hour each week learning finger jabs, wrist escapes, double wrist escapes, elbow smashes, kicks, bear hug escapes, and ground defense techniques. Paul teaches new things every week. Basically, he’s teaching me that my elbows and knees are weapons to be used in case of attack or assault……
Paul’s classes are a lot more fun than doing repetitions in a gym, that’s for sure. And, the added bonus is that I feel as if I’m prepared for an unknown assailant.
And, of course, I feel as if I’m going to be a bit of a surprise for anyone who thinks that as a 70+ year old cotton top, I’ll be an easy mark.

I’ll be blogging more in the future about self protection techniques. We all need these tools because it’s important to feel safe both physically and spiritually.

In the meantime, you’re invited to join Paul’s Saturday morning class. It’s ongoing and it’s adaptable to different age, strength, and skill level.
See you there!

SNAP and Seniors: Many just don’t get it.

Please share this post with any and all seniors you may know.  Chances are they might be able to use the information…especially since 1 senior in 7 in our country doesn’t get enough to eat.   

Seniors are extremely reluctant to use SNAP, partly because of myths surrounding SNAP.

SNAP Myth #1:

Why apply for SNAP?  It’s not worth the hassle.  I may not even get much $$$.

SNAP Reality #1:

Most people get more than just a few dollars.  Some families receive over $100.  But, whatever you get – it all adds up,  Over time, you’re going to receive several hundred dollars annually.   This $ is yours.

Whether it’s $16 or $160 is not the issue here.  This is $$$ that you paid taxes with all these years.

Look at it this way:  If you get $16 in SNAP benefits, you can buy eggs, milk, bread, butter.  Every penny counts.

Whatever the amount, you are going to be eating better – staying healthier – and using tax dollars that you paid all these years.

SNAP Myth #2:

If I get SNAP, I’ll be taking away food benefits from others who may need them more such as young families with children.

SNAP Reality #2:

There are funds set aside for everyone who qualifies.  The funds are federal.  No one participating in the SNAP program will be taking away anything from anyone.  On the contrary, by using SNAP funds, you will be bringing dollars into your community.  You will be helping your town.

Many seniors qualify for SNAP and are not even aware of this benefit.

SNAP Myth #3:

I’ll have to have a face-to-face interview to get on the SNAP roster.

SNAP Reality #3:

Any senior who is ill, has transportation difficulties, has hardships due to living in a rural area, is experiencing prolonged severe weather,  or is under the care of another household member does not need to have a face-to-face interview.

In New York State, seniors can be interviewed by phone or with a scheduled home visit.

Basically, the issue here is trust.  Seniors sometimes do not trust the process and are afraid of it.  Filling out the application can be very challenging for those of us who have cognitive or physical limitations.

A further barrier is language.  Many seniors simply do not have the English language skills to apply for SNAP – and they know it.  There is another category here:  the senior who feels s/he lacks the skills and does not realize that there are professionals who speak the language who can help with the application process.


Hunger among seniors is at an epidemic level…especially in New York State.  SNAP offers access to a healthy diet which is extremely important for the overall health of seniors.

Thank you for reading this blog/book.

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I hope you found this helpful. Please leave your comments below and check out other posts.

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Peace and food for all.

Thurman Greco