Hunger Is Not a Disease

7 Ways “Work First” Doesn’t Work

Pantry HND 3

WORK FIRST – Since the ’90s, many states have been hell bent to Harry to get people to work…no matter what.  Welfare is no longer on the table.

A tip here:  Many people don’t realize that the Good Ol’ U S of A  hasn’t offered much in the way of welfare in a long, long time.

In polite conversation, I  hear the statement:  “What they need is a swift kick in the rear to get on somebody’s payroll.”  I find it totally amazing that people in this country have been and continue to be comfortable denying assistance to destitute families while offering tax breaks to the wealthy on vacation homes, yachts, etc.

The question I have is this:  How do people cope?

Work first is not always a good option.  I regularly see pantry shoppers with   family members who would be institutionalized if they weren’t being cared for by the family.  The problem is that the family has nothing.  So while Helen or Sue or Fred is caring for the ill person, s/he is not able to work.

Right now, in our pantry there is an older couple…he’s obviously a loving caregiver.  This man might be able to work were it not for his very ill wife.

Another woman shops regularly with a very mentally ill family member.  This young man cannot be left alone…not even for a few minutes.

While  the sick/handicapped family member is being cared for at home, the state is paying little or nothing.  So, the family is in desperate financial straits because of a very ill family member.  One day, someone in this family is going to realize the situation and then our state’s bill is going to increase significantly when the ill person is institutionalized.

I’m suspecting at least some of  these people are very willing to care for the ill/handicapped family member because there are no jobs out here.  When a job comes along, the person will be working and the state will be paying a very hefty bill for the institution.

Wouldn’t it just be better in the long run to pay the family a stipend in lieu of the institution?

But, family members are not unemployed solely because of a sick/handicapped family member.  There are several  reasons why people simply cannot work…no matter how many swift kicks the extremely poor person receives.   These barriers to work success can effectively kill someone’s career:

Work first is an interesting philosophy when there are no jobs.

Poor quality childcare will kill a job faster than anything.  When a family exists below the poverty level, there is no $$$ for childcare.  So, the children go to grandma’s, or the neighbor down the road…or stay home alone.

Transportation issues are major factors in unemployment.  They include:

no public transportation,

not owning a vehicle which is 4-season functional,

not having enough gas $$$, and finally,

not having the $$$ to fix the car when it breaks down.

A lot of networking is done in pantry lines for a mechanic to keep the family wreck on the road.

Literacy issues and lack of work experience are barriers to employment.  In our area, there are some illiterate people.

Until a person has a job, it’s difficult to get a job.  So…it can be very  challenging to find the first job.  I know  young people working for free in hopes of finding something that will pay.  Then, one day, they get something part time, off the books!  The next step up the ladder is to graduate to half on/half off.  Then, finally, hurray!  A job finally happens which is on the books.  A job with benefits is often beyond the dream of a person in our area.

Then, of course, we have the taboo subject:  domestic violence.  At the poverty level, domestic violence is simply not discussed.  Domestic abuse contributes to poverty.  A woman cannot escape an abusive situation without $$$ and right now there’s not much of that around.

There is not much attention given to this situation.  In future blog posts, I will be

addressing this tragic situation because it is prevalent in our society.

Thank you for reading this blog/book

Please refer this article to your preferred social media network.

Please send a comment.

Don’t forget to join the email list.

Peace and food for all.

Thurman Greco

An Open Letter to Senator George A. Amedore, Jr.

RFP-Tent (1)
Dear Senator Amedore
It was so nice to receive your recent letter, Senator Amedore, explaining what the 2015 New York State Budget will mean to me. As a senior living in Ulster County who manages the Reservoir Food Pantry in Boiceville, New York, I am extremely aware of struggles of Ulster County seniors. As you wrote, seniors “have spent their lives and careers here in the 46th Senate District deserve to be able to afford to retire here and enjoy their golden years in the communities they’ve called home for so many years.”
Senator Amedore, I have thought exactly the same thing many times as I distribute a 3-day-supply of food to seniors who don’t have enough $$$ to buy sufficient food with their social security checks.
In your letter, you listed several programs receiving funding that seniors rely upon:
Community Services for the Elderly
Alzheimer’s Programs
LifeSpan for Elderly Abuse, Education, and Outreach
New York Foundation for Senior Home Sharing and Respite
Senior Action Council Hotline
EPIC Program
Enhanced STAR
On behalf of the seniors from your district shopping at food pantries, I thank you for including these services in your budget.
One thing missing in the lineup was any reference to food. This omission is entirely understandable. No one but the seniors understand what a struggle food is for this category of people in our population.
Grocery shopping for the elderly is difficult under the best of circumstances. Getting to the grocery store can be challenging for older people – especially for those living in a food desert. Getting around in the parking lot and going up and down the grocery store aisles is no fun anymore. And, when they can’t find what they need and afford, they have to maneuver the muddy parking lot and the scary entrance ramp of our pantry. And…we haven’t even discussed the packages yet. They’ve got to be gotten home and in the kitchen.
Finally, getting high quality, affordable food is more and more difficult as the days go by. And, it’s even more difficult for those seniors who no longer drive or own a working automobile.
In Ulster County, many seniors residents living in rural areas of the county live in a food desert and are miles from a grocery store offering fresh fruits and vegetables. Volunteers at the Reservoir Food Pantry deliver food packages weekly to approximately 40 households composed of transportation challenged people…many of whom are seniors. Some of these people have no working stoves in their homes.
Many seniors in our pantry line would certainly qualify for SNAP – even in it’s current reduced condition. However, they lack the wherewithal to get qualified. For one thing, it’s a good half hour down Route 28. For another, they are sometimes afraid. They’re afraid of the forms, the humiliation of being unable to survive on their own in the last years of their lives. They are afraid of the long wait in a building they may not even be able to find. In short, they find the whole process threatening.
Seniors struggle for food. Actually, they struggle for what I call “the Big 3”: food, housing, and medical expenses. Forget the extras like clothing. Many seniors get less, pay more, and go without. When seniors don’t get enough to eat (and many do not), they have a tendency to get sick which creates a hardship for their children and grandchildren.
Healthcare costs can be devastating, even to a senior with Medicare. Once a person comes down with cancer or other major disease, the pocketbook empties pretty fast.
In the past, food pantries focused on shoppers in a specific location. We now serve the people who can get to us during our open hours.
At Reservoir Food Pantry, fresh vegetables are important. We recently scrounged $$$ together and bought a used long line van which volunteers drive weekly to Latham for as much produce as we can bring back. We routinely run out.
Our situation is precarious, Senator Amedore. We joke that we’re teetering on homelessness ourselves because we’re housed in a shed on a flood plain. The shed is fine. We’re desperately trying to find a place to move it to so we’ll be out of the flood plain. So far, we’ve had no luck.
-But enough of our woes, Senator Amedore. Thank you for including me in your mailing list. Thank you for the work you are doing for seniors in New York State. Thank you for sharing.
When you’re in your Kingston office on a Monday afternoon, you have an open invitation to visit our pantry. We’ll be honored and pleased to show you around our 12’x16′ shed. We serve over 140 households weekly from this shed. Most of them are seniors.
We do hope you’ll come. We promise the tour won’t take long because our pantry is small. However, the photos will be many and the seniors will be grateful.

Peace and food for all.
Thurman Greco
P.S.-If you ever need any human interest stories, I have many, many, many, and I’m happy to share.

RT 28 at Boiceville
Thanks for reading this blog post.
Please refer this article to your preferred social media network.
I hope you found this helpful. Please leave your comments below and check out the other blog posts.
Don’t forget to join the email list.
Other blogs by Thurman Greco:

7 Ways We Use Food Pantries


Food Pantries feed the hungry…and very successfully at that, actually.  After all, there are very few stories right now about starving people dying in the streets. We Food Pantry volunteers can  pat ourselves on the back for that, at least.

But, so much more happens in a Food Pantry beyond feeding the hungry.

For starters, thousands of volunteers are kept gainfully occupied and off the streets as we (wo)man the pantries.

The United States Department of Agriculture disposes of thousands and thousands of pounds of surplus foods every year in Food Pantries.  Unfortunately, though, the USDA seems to have a somewhat embarrassed attitude about the distribution of agricultural surpluses.  Anybody who thinks about it quickly realizes that it’s impossible to grow just exactly what we need every year.  It’s much better to have too much than too little.  So, the USDA needs the Food Pantries to dispose of this surplus.  Sure beats hauling it off to the landfill.

Thank you USDA!  I just wish you felt better about the job you do.

Supermarkets use Food Pantries to dispose of food they can’t sell.  By donating produce,
baked goods,
packaged shelf staples,  
grocers  avoid dump fees, discourage dumpster divers, accrue tax savings, and tell the world about how many thousands of dollars they donated to feed the hungry.

Churches throughout this country feed the hungry in Food Pantries located in their basements. That is, all except for the famous St. Gregory’s Episcopal Church in San Francisco where Sara Miles put the pantry on the altar. She subsequently wrote a book about it entitled “Take This Bread”. I hope you get a chance to read it.
Congregations label their Food Pantries as outreach but I don’t buy into that concept. What we’re all doing, really, is celebrating the enormous abundance existing in this country…in this world…on this planet.

Environmentalists use Food Pantries to divert food bound for the landfill.  It’s amazing when you think about it.  Several million people in our country are prevented from starving to death when they shop at a Food Pantry and take home produce, dairy products, meats, baked goods, shelf staples that would otherwise have ended up at the landfill.

Schools throughout our fair nation distribute food to children to take home on the weekend. The Backpack Programs offer food to children who have none in their households.

It’s a real ego trip for whole segments of our society.  Everyone feels all warm and fuzzy about food donated to Food Banks.  This includes  farmers, grocers, food manufacturers, restaurants, bakers, religious and civic institutions feeding the hungry, and, of course, the people who read the stories about the generosity of these businesses.

This warm and fuzzy feeling we all get when we realize which businesses are contributing to feeding the hungry rubs off positively on Food Banks.  They, thankfully, are very influential charities as a result.  Food Banks rank right up there with hospitals, the United Way, and the Y.

And, it’s all good.  Food Banks need the $$$ to keep the whole industry going.  The demand for the food keeps growing and growing because the  minimum wage jobs don’t pay enough $$$ to allow workers to buy groceries.  SNAP benefits get whittled away each year.  There’s not much left except the Food Pantry.

Thank you for reading this blog/book.

Please send a comment.

Please refer this article to your preferred social media network.

Don’t forget to join the email list.

Thurman Greco