Hunger Is Not a Disease

Let’s Celebrate National Farmer’s Week – August 2 to 9



CucumbersNational Farmers Market Week begins Sunday.  If you can, please take a moment this week to thank  local farmers  for the great food they provide our communities.  Thank them  also for the  support we see  at food pantries everywhere.

They do this as a project of the recently begun Farm Stand concept, the brainchild of Jan Whitman and Ron VanWarmer.  Jan, Ron, and Carrie Jones Ross worked together to create farm stands in pantries throughout the Hudson Valley where the hungry  shop for fresh produce at a price they can afford:  free.

I visited 2 Farm Stands in Kingston, New York, recently.  One is located at People’s Place and the other at Community Action.  What an event Jan, Ron, and Carrie put together!   Excited, happy shoppers choose from:









By focusing on feeding the struggling class, one person at a time, the hungry are being fed and the lives of thousands are touched.  All  Farm Stand food is donated by farmers.  No local merchant is losing a sale by not seeing  customers in a supermarket line because these people don’t have the income to buy any of the food.

The growing Farm Stand concept offers an opportunity to move the Food Bank of the Hudson Valley into the future at breakneck speed.

In addition to the Farm Stand donations, food pantries throughout our area receive hundreds of thousands of pounds of fresh, nutritious, delicious food each year from local farms.  Much of it  is organic.

On the individual pantry front, Migliorelli Farm donates fresh produce weekly to our pantry year round.  Greenleaf Farm Stand donates produce to volunteers who drop by before the pantry opens every Monday.

Prasida and Francine drive the  pantry van to the Regional Food Bank in Latham weekly to pick up fresh produce donated from Hudson Valley Farms.

The Regional Food Bank owns the Patroon Farm which  grows organic vegetables. Their crops all go to the food pantries and soup kitchens throughout our area.

The generosity offered by farmers and local pantry volunteers makes  pantry distribution a reality.  Those who selflessly share their time make our mission a success.  Without the dedication and generosity of our farmers, where would be be?

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Thurman greco

3 Important Things We Can Do To End 50+ Hunger


“Hunger and income inequality is probably the single biggest issue facing this country”. – Susan Zimet

Ending hunger is a huge task…so big it’s scary, even.  But, it’s okay to be scary.  It’s doable.  And, besides that, anything that’s really important is probably a little scary.  Right?


Hunger in general and 50+ Hunger in particular are buried issues.  In other words, unless you’re the one shopping at the pantry, you haven’t got much of a clue.   If you’re  standing in a grocery line with 5 cotton tops,  statistics tell us that 1 of them is struggling for $$$ to get the food s/he needs.

Food insecurity happens with 50+ citizens when the retirement income is insufficient to meet day-to-day needs.

Not all 50+ people are retired.  It’s not unheard of to see  people visiting the pantry, men mostly, who have been fired from jobs they’ve held for many years.  After a worker  crosses the line to being 50+, getting another job is pretty impossible.  So, the challenges are great.   What I saw most of them do is desperately figure out how to get some sort of  aid:  SSI, disability, that will last until the social security kicks in.

I’VE SEEN MY SHARE OF MEN IN THIS STRUGGLE.  Some were successful.  Others just finally got seriously ill and died.  This seems tragic, I know.  But, think about it for a moment.  What else are they going to do when the $$$ is gone and there is no chance of any more $$$ coming in?

One such pantry shoppers came into the basement of the Woodstock Reformed Church angry.  He was one of the angriest men I saw in the pantry the whole time I worked there.  Frightened reality covered his face.

“I’m finished” he said.  “They fired me today!  I’ll never be able to get another job again.  I’m too old!”

I didn’t say a word.  He didn’t look or act as if he was going to hurt anyone and I felt he needed to release some of his anger.  He didn’t try to punch the walls or the other shoppers or the volunteers.  And, since the wait was over an hour, I felt he would quiet down before he finished shopping.

HE WAS CORRECT ABOUT 1 THING.  He was probably not ever going to get a real job again.  I just hoped his unemployment was going to hold out until he could figure out how to get something more permanent:




It took him a year to calm down.  Every time he came to the pantry, I saw the anger.  We all just left him alone.  It was all we could do for him.

Time passed.

Now, in 2015, I saw him again – calm, maybe at peace with his situation.  He lives in his truck, sort of semi homeless, I suppose.  He has places to bathe, etc.

He’s a talented musician, this man.  He has found places to play and he is looking okay.  What more can we all ask for anyway?

Anyone with income that doesn’t include $$$ for food is, in my book, in crisis..

50+ seniors routinely decide between food and transportation, food and medicine, food and clothing.


One thing we need to do is understand, really understand, what keeps seniors from getting enough healthy food.  The 50+ population is growing, not shrinking.  we have a continually increasing number of seniors facing

food insecurity

rising food costs

availability of healthy food

shrinking Government funding.

FOOD PANTRY WORKERS DO WHAT THEY CAN.   Volunteers in many cases keep people from dying of hunger on the streets.  But pantries are, with 50+ hunger, a small effort.  Can people seek more important ways to address the problem?  Can we develop some long-term and short-term solutions?





Educating the public  has its own challenges.  Food is such a hot button issue in our country.  People immediately go into denial.  They want to believe that the shoppers in the pantry lines are all wealthy and drive Maseratis and Corvettes.

Of course, this will never be true.  I’ve been working in the food pantry industry for 10 years and I’ve seen very few free loaders.  And, honestly, the free loaders  I met all had mental issues.

The number of people shopping in in food pantries who don’t  belong is very small.

The number of people who need to shop in food pantries is  large.

The number of 50+ people who need to shop in food pantries but don’t is way too large.

WE NEED TO KEEP THE EDUCATIONAL EFFORT GOING.  That’s why I work in a food pantry, write this blog, and speak about hunger at pretty much any place I’m invited.

Helping the 50+ population get the food is a challenge.   It’s difficult to learn that you worked all your life, paid your taxes,  participated in social security, and now …when you need it…it’s not enough.

What happened to our dream?

Was it ever real?

Did we get bilked?

Were we all just kidding ourselves?

OUR PARENTS AND OUR  GRANDPARENTS WORKED TO BUILD A NATION.    We worked to continue the American Dream.  Now, we find that it doesn’t really exist. For some, the belief is that this dream never did exist.   For many, the most important thing is to just not let anyone know how bad things are for them.

Hunger in the 50+ community today is where being gay was prior to 2000.

If you can talk just one 50+ senior into getting SNAP, you will be doing a wonderful thing.

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Thurman Greco.





The Face of Hunger/The Face of Hope

Every Monday, she brings her little granddaughter to the pantry –

Sue, maybe 4, is shy – absolutely beautiful – and still totally unaware of her situation:


Mother working 2+ jobs

Not enough to eat

Threadbare clothes

This lovely child takes pleasure in the smallest treats.  Today her treat is a can of juice one of the volunteers found that’s not yet dented.

Her grandmother is teaching her to:

stand in line quietly


say “thank you”.

How these mothers and grandmothers can get these little children to stand perfectly still and quiet for the time it takes to go through the line is completely beyond me.

But, back to the story.They get a 3-day supply of food which will last for 7 days, this struggling pair.

She’s always happy visit  the pantry.  It’s got 2 rooms so their next stop is the produce room where they have apples today.

Garrett and Susanne also keep the place well stocked with children’s books so there will be another treat for her.

When I see this pair, I see the universal grandmother and granddaughter next door.  They are us.  They are our neighbors.  They are our cousins.  I am reminded that we do not live in a we/they world.  The hungry are us.

I’ve been working in a food  pantry for years…certainly long enough to have become hardened to the reality and face of hunger.  However, that is not what has happened.  If anything, I’m more sensitive to the issues.  I now truly believe that humans are not meant to suffer hunger and poverty.  We are not meant to turn our heads away from the issue of hunger.

Most poor families in America are working families.  The low wages earned by the millions of hungry Americans are not enough to cover the cost of housing, medical care, child care, transportation, clothing and food.

As the Struggling Class begins cutting food because the budget no longer allows it, they begin by cutting out meat.  If that is not enough, they go to the second level and cut out meat, vegetables and eat eat only cereals.

Finally, it means cutting out an entire meal every day.

Food Pantries offer the hope of at least not starving to death.  When people visit food pantries they can get food which they otherwise could not purchase.  This brings hope to us all – not only the hungry but to those who work to appease the situation.

Thank you for reading this blog/book.

Please refer this article to your preferred social media network.

Thurman Greco





Do you ever…? 10 questions to ask hungry friends, relatives, neighbors.


Do you ever run out of $$$ to buy the food to make a meal?

Do you ever eat less food than you need because you ran out of $$$ to buy the food?

Do you ever eat less food than you need because you can’t get the food?

Do you ever skip meals because you don’t have $$$ for food?

Do you ever skip meals because you can’t get the food?

Do you ever do without fresh/frozen fruits and vegetables because you don’t have $$$ to purchase these products?

Do you ever go to bed hungry?

Do you ever skip meals so that your children will have enough to eat?

Do your children ever eat less than they need because you don’t have enough to eat?

Do your children ever go to bed hungry?

Each week at the pantry, people line up to file through the tiny room in the shed.  Most of them come weekly…as they should.  That’s how they get the most food for the time invested.  They get a 3-day supply of food which must last a week.

They hold their heads high, chat with  neighbors in the line, put on the best face possible.  I see them week after week, trying to get  food they need at the pantry.  I cannot help but have questions.  I need to shift the focus from general to  specific, nothing more.   To me, each person is individual.  Each one has unique  needs.

As an agency of the Food Bank of Northeastern New York and the Hudson Valley, the volunteers of the Reservoir Food Pantry are trained to feed the hungry a 3-day supply of food to include fresh fruits and vegetables, proteins, whole wheat breads, dairy products.  We are extremely proud of the quality of food which we serve to our shoppers.

This 3-day-supply of food includes food for three meals on each of the three days.  Each meal needs to offer 3 of the 5 food groups.

We get this food from the Food Bank.  Grocers, food manufacturers, farmers generously donate it.  For the most part, it’s  diverted from the landfill.

In spite of the landfill diversion, the quality of this food is excellent.  Much of it, especially the fresh fruits and vegetables, is organic.  It is food that all of us who volunteer at the Reservoir Food Pantry are proud to offer.

We serve this food to:

Seniors whose social security is not enough to buy the food they need to eat.

Families whose  children need enough to eat so they can learn at school.

Seriously ill people whose income is focused on paying medical bills with no $$$ left for food.

Homeless people with no kitchens.

People living in food deserts who lack transportation to get to a first line grocery store/super market.

When I see these people each week, I cannot help but see that the numbers grow weekly.   I am always confronted with one final question:

Why, in our United States of America in the 21st century, are over 49,000,000 people not getting enough to eat?

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Peace and food for all.

Thurman Greco