“When we talk cooking and eating, we are talking love, since the entire history of how a family loves – when and how they learned to love – can be told in most kitchens.” – Marion Roach Smith
The first year a person uses a food pantry for primary shopping, Christmas is a holiday gone wrong. After several years, Christmas becomes whatever the household can make of it. The adjustment is, for some, difficult and for others more difficult.
The difficulty lies, mostly, in the ability to get food items considered “traditional” by a household when no money is available to purchase them in a grocery store.
Once, I heard some pantry shoppers talking in the line about holidays past. Their conversation centered around people celebrating by eating too much delicious food and visiting with relatives, friends, neighbors while swapping stories, catching up on the news.
For more and more people living in poverty, this just doesn’t happen. Both households and individuals find themselves unable to finance the expense of the holiday event.
Not only can they not afford the food, more and more people no longer have the table to sit at, the chairs to sit on, and the stove to cook the food. Recipes, pots and pans, china, silverware, crystal are long since gone. Eating without a kitchen is the way of the modern household living on a minimum wage.
With luck, today’s struggling class household will have the gas to get the car to a soup kitchen. Otherwise, it’s going to be a regular day with a meal prepared in a crock pot, or on a hot plate. The economic situation for some is that just to take the day off and still be able to buy groceries the next day is more a goal than anything else.
Realities faced by the hungry pantry shopper weigh on my shoulders every day of the year. This weight keeps me squirreling away food so the pantry shelves can be stocked for celebrations with canned soup, canned gravy, potatoes, stuffing mix, canned green beans, cranberry sauce, chicken broth and all the fruits and vegetables that can be gotten at food drives and the food bank. Storeroom space and a few freezers at the food pantry are essential.
Pantry volunteers have a difficult time just keeping up with the ever increasing client census. Those with a stable shopper base, a large storeroom and connections can begin scrounging in July to set aside food. It’s extremely challenging to get several hundred or a thousand of an item in the summer and store the food until December.
After several years and several holidays, the food gatherer in the household becomes, if time allows, more skilled at scrounging for food in both the pantry and the grocery store. The difficulty lies, mostly, in the ability to get food items considered “traditional” by a household when no money is available to purchase the items in a supermarket.
While distributing food, I mentally predict who’s going to be successful at scrounging and gathering by the sound of the automobile as it’s driven into the parking lot of the pantry. A successful holiday dinner depends on a working automobile, time available between jobs, and the energy to sustain the search.
Transportation challenges, disabilities, and serious illness in the family can defeat all efforts.
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Book Update: “A Healer’s Handbook” has been published and is available on Nook and Kindle! It will be available in the paper version in early January. If you order it now, it will be mailed directly to you upon publication.
More information about this book can be found on Thurmangreco.com.
Publication of “The Unworthy Hungry” is now scheduled for January 2018.
Thank you for your support and your patience. Now that “Healer’s Handbook” has been published, there will be more frequent and regularly published articles on all blogs.
We’re having a white Christmas in Woodstock. The tree is up on the village green!
Voices can be heard in the hallway, just like all year long.
One thing no one ever discusses in the hallway of the pantry is the past. The shoppers speak about things that happened in the past week or so but never much beyond. Whatever took place before the food pantry came into their lives just isn’t on the agenda.
As holidays approach, no one ever mentions the Thanksgivings, Christmases, Hanukkahs, Passovers, Easters they had before their lives spun out of control. No one ever mentions that there wasn’t enough money to get Passover food which isn’t available in our pantry.
No one ever asks a child what Santa is going to bring.
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One thing: the reflexology book, “A Healers Handbook” by me, Thurman Greco, is finished! It will soon be available for purchase and can be bought now in the ebook version at Kindle and Nook. For you, the reader of this blog, this means that I’ll be posting much more often now.
No question about it, miracles do happen. Maybe you don’t believe in miracles. I do. I was in denial for the longest time. But, after awhile, I had to face reality. There were simply too many coincidences:
One September pantry day a few years ago the lines were longer than usual and the shelves were emptying out fast. “I think we’re going to run out of food” I mentioned under my breath to Marie Duane, a volunteer from St. Gregory’s Episcopal Church.
“Do we have a plan for this kind of event?” I asked myself.
Then, to quote the Reverend Mike Huckabee, “God showed up.”
I know this statement is applicable here because the moment I began muttering under my breath, it was as if someone had blown a whistle. A red haired woman drove up in a tan SUV filled with bags and bags of food she collected from Congregation Agudas Achim in Kingston. Harriet Kazansky unloaded enough canned and boxed food to get us through the day with some food left over!
One December, the Wednesday after Christmas, to be exact, John Mower drove up with a car trunk filled with canned vegetables for the pantry. What a gift! Our pantry was completely bare that December. Then, the next day, along came another trunk load. He finally quit after three trips to the pantry. He filled the shelves for the next pantry day.
One Tuesday morning in the pantry, Peggy Johnson was upset because she didn’t have enough food to prepare the take out bags for the fourteen families she delivered food to every week. Food had been scarce and this week the take out area seemed empty. A large man suddenly walked in the door carrying an extremely large box filled with canned and boxed food. A Kingston fireman who grew up in the Woodstock area, he made Peggy promise to never reveal his name. However, she didn’t have to keep his gift a secret: in one trip down the pantry hallway, carrying a box large enough to hold everything needed, he single handedly provided all the food for the home bound families that week. Our pantry has never heard from him since.
In the pantry hallway, we had an Item of Dignity closet. where shoppers could take a roll of toilet paper and one other item each time they shopped. We were forbidden by the building committee to have clothing in this closet.
One Wednesday afternoon I noticed a pair of new boots. I have no idea where they came from. They certainly didn’t come in disguised as deodorant or shampoo. Anyway, Prasida needed a pair of winter boots. One of the volunteers took them off the shelf.
“Prasida, can you wear wear these boots?” Prasida came over to the closet, looked them over, and put them on.
“Ahhh – a perfect fit! Thank you Amma! Now I won’t have cold feet this winter in my summer sandals.”
At one point, I was reading Doreen Virtue’s book “Archangels and Ascended Masters”. One night I read about Saint Therese, also known as the Little Flower. The story goes that if one prays to St. Therese, she will send a rose as a sign that the request has been heard. The next day, I found a rose on the pantry floor as I walked into the room.
But, the real miracle happened repeatedly in the pantry as the shoppers and volunteers both began to heal and change and grow from the community, their commitment, and the experiences in the pantry. When people first started coming to the pantry, either to volunteer or shop, they were focused inward on their own problems, issues, health. After a short time, they began to focus on their friends in the pantry. They became concerned about something bigger than themselves and their private struggles.
In short…they became new.
Thanks for reading this blog/book. The stories are true. The people are real.
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The book is still in progress! It’s going to happen!