If you read my last post – “Food Pantry Rules” – you may have thought you were in some time warp. Travel had returned you to about 2010.
Well, not really.
The pandemic changed many details but the bones of a food pantry event are the same.
The volunteers and the people who shop at the pantry are the same.
Everyone comes together looking for groceries but often, they want and need far more.
Food pantry lines get longer every pantry day because people, families, struggle with change they didn’t ask for.
They are rewriting their destiny stories without a road map or instructions.
A number of people in the food pantry, both shoppers and volunteers, didn’t know about food pantries until circumstances set up a situation where they suddenly looked around and realized they were in a car in a long line waiting for food.
There is a name for this category: SITUATIONAL POOR.
A person fits into the situational poor category when she lands in a situation created by an event such as a hurricane, fire, flood, pandemic, or other disaster which destroys the home, car, job.
Food pantries offer much – peace, community, spiritual connection, groceries.
A food pantry in the basement of a church is a cross between a church and a busy pizza place.
A food pantry in a line of cars in a pandemic is reminiscent of the mass food distributions we held periodically in New York State after the collapse of the economy in 2008.
A line of cars filled with people needing food wraps around the block, down the road, and even further.
A whistle blows.
The cars begin to move. A volunteer puts a bag (s) of food in each vehicle.
Everyone wears masks.
There are still food pantries where people show up to a church and receive a bag of groceries.
But, whether the food is distributed to hungry people in cars or to hungry people walking to a building, a food pantry distribution is not a program. It is a community made up of those who gather the food and distribute it, and those who receive it. The process of distributing the food to people creates a change in everyone.
The experience does not heal a person. Nor does it change the story. It does not offer therapy. The experience itself is a conduit for each person’s own spiritual growth and change.
Never once when I was involved in a food pantry did I kid myself into thinking that I was winning the war against hunger. And, I do not kid myself now.
I know this food pantry food distribution experience does not end hunger. Instead, it offers food for several meals. And, that is all.
Ending hunger is another matter altogether.
I do feel, though, that the rules are changing. The pandemic experience is altering the hunger situation dramatically, at least. The pandemic experience is altering the hunger situation permanently.
“How is that?” you ask.
The pandemic has changed how our food is grown and distributed. Food pantries are a link in the food distribution chain. This chain now looks different. The link connections are different.
“How is that?” you ask.
For one thing, the restaurant industry is different.
Food production and distribution is different.
I do not think we know yet just what the fallout is. We have yet to live out the end of this story. We’re living and experiencing the future. For some, it is hard to see the big picture because the changes have not yet come around for each of us to see and experience in our daily lives.
In any event, the Pandemic is not us what we think. Our opinions and preferences don’t count for much here.
One thing is certain, our future is destined to be different from a future without a Pandemic. Another thing is certain for me: We can never return to our past.
We are all destined to experience a new Pandemic future.
Whatever the future brings, we need to keep on feeding the hungry in whatever way that works.
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A food pantry is what it is because of three things:
the economic situation at the moment
the people who shop there.
The people come together looking for groceries but often, they want and need far more.
While the coronavirus pandemic rages, the food pantry lines get longer every pantry day because people, families, deal with change they didn’t ask for.
In short, they are rewriting their destiny stories without a road map or instructions.
A number of the people in the pantry, both shoppers and volunteers, didn’t know about food pantries until circumstances set up a situation where they suddenly looked around a room and realized where they were.
There is a name for their category – SITUATIONAL POOR.
A person fits into the situational poor category when s/he lands in a situation created by an event such as a hurricane, fire, floor, pandemic, or other disaster which destroys the home, car, job.
Pantries offer much – peace, community, spiritual connection, groceries. I always think of a food pantry in the basement of a church as a cross between a church service and a busy pizza place.
A food pantry, and those connected with it, are not a program. They are a community. As volunteers, all we really do is open the door. As all the hungry people walk through the door, they undergo a change somehow.
Each person in a pantry, in whatever capacity, has experienced rejection in some way – too young, too old, too crazy, too sick, too poor, not poor enough.
The food pantry experience does not heal a person, nor does it change the story.
The food pantry experience does not offer therapy.
The food pantry is, instead, a conduit for each person’s own healing.
FOOD PANTRY RULES
Sign your name in the register as you enter the pantry.
Find a place in line.
Do not crowd or block the door to the pantry room.
No more than 2 shoppers are allowed in the pantry at one time.
No more than one new shopper is allowed in the pantry at one time.
Shop for a three-day supply of food for everyone in your household.
Place your selections on the table as you shop.
Respect the restrictions on certain foods.
Finish your shopping in 10 minutes.
Once you begin to bag your groceries, do not continue to shop.
Because the food availability is different each time you shop, it is best to visit the food pantry weekly.
P.S. The rules may be different at the pantry where you shop. Each food pantry is different. The space is different. The times the pantry is open is different. The management is different.
These specific rules were used in the food pantry I managed where the people were many, the space small, and the hours few.
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December 21st is the Winter Solstice for 2020.
The Winter Solstice is the annual celebration of the yearly rebirth of the sun.
Please take a few moments today to send healing, acceptance, regeneration, and rebirth to all living beings – both plant and animal.
Visualize a world in which all living beings have enough food and water to nourish themselves into wellness in 2021.
Take a moment to release those things which no longer positively serve our planet and its inhabitants.
Find a few minutes sometime today to reflect on our planetary needs. Reflect on how it will feel to live on a healthy planet where all beings experience wellness and coexist to honor and support one another.
Thank you for your healing thoughts and prayers.
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I got excited!
A letter from the Capital City Rescue Mission sent me a thank you note! Just 2 weeks ago, they sent me an appeal letter, complete with return envelope.
And, today, I got a letter from Covenant House.
So what, you say.
Well, so that. That’s what!
When I managed the local food pantry here in Woodstock, I sent out appeal letters every year to a few thousand people. I never, ever, saw an appeal letter from another food pantry or soup kitchen or halfway house.
My letters weren’t nearly so nice as the ones I got from the Capital City Rescue Mission or Covenant House.
The pantry appeal letters were hand addressed, printed on a copy machine and hand folded.
Our return address on the envelopes appeared compliments of a volunteer hand-stamping each one individually. A volunteer got the return address stamp at the Catskill Art and Office for less than $25.
Our mailers went out each year reeking of poverty. No professional letterhead. No nice paper. They were just an appeal from a group of people who needed to keep going from day-to-day.
But, they worked. Those letters and the follow-up thank-you notes brought in enough money to meet our needs. We always had enough for gas and sandwiches for the staff on the monthly food pantry stocking day.
When Guy dented the fender in his car in our parking lot, we had the money for repairs.
When we showed up in the food pantry one day to distribute food, there were no working lights in the basement of the church.
I never quite figured out what happened. But this I do know: Richard Spool arrived in just a few minutes and dealt with the problem. We had enough $$$ to get all the parts we needed at Houst.
And, this I do know: The hungry people were fed, the lights were fixed, Richard saved the day, and the account still had a few dollars left.
But, now, back to the story.
Well, today I did. The appeal mailer came in about 2 weeks ago and I quickly sent a check and a copy of my book (for encouragement).
Today I got a thank-you with another self-addressed envelope from the Capital City Rescue Mission. (I think I’ll send another copy of my book for them to share. ) I’m going to send along another check. I’m anxious to see how this plays out.
Meanwhile, if you are a food pantry, soup kitchen, halfway house and need money, you can learn all my secrets starting on page 196 of my book, “I Don’t Hang Out in Churches Anymore”. I held nothing back. If you read this information, you’ll have the recipe for fundraising success.
In my heart, I want every pantry, soup kitchen, and halfway house to be rich enough to feed everyone who needs the food. I want the food to be top quality – the best.
And, I want every pantry to have enough $$$ to fix the cars and trucks and the lights in the building.
I learned these secrets at Rowe in Vermont when Kim Kline gave her annual talk.
If you feel you can’t take my word for all this success, get Kim Kline’s books and read them. Or, better yet, attend one of her weekends (when the pandemic is over).
Remember, in our country, there is no excuse for anyone to go hungry.
If you’re reading this post and you don’t work for a pantry or soup kitchen, you don’t have to wait for a mailer. All you have to do is contact a food pantry and make a donation.
You don’t have to send a check. If you want, you can hold a food drive and then haul over all the food you gathered. The important thing is that there are many ways to support those who feed the hungry.
And, lately, there are more and more hungry people than we ever thought possible. Your help and support will be appreciated.
Thank you for your generosity and thank you for reading this article.
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This Thanksgiving I’m grateful for the clothes on my back.
This Thanksgiving I’m grateful for my health.
This Thanksgiving I’m grateful for food which is available to me and to those who rely on the resources and generosity of others for the basic necessities we need to continue our lives.
The available food reminds me that we all live in the abundance of this time and place.
Thanksgiving, for me, is an opportunity to welcome the coming new year: hope and new beginnings arrive in January. The energy of this Thanksgiving gives me strength to gather energy for that prayer.
I’m holding on to the healing, wellness, and regeneration we will all experience as the Pandemic finally moves on.
I’m waiting for the blessings which will come my way as the Pandemic exits and leaves space for the new reality we will experience in its place.
And, I have to admit, I’m excited to experience our new reality. In my heart of hearts, I feel we’re never going back. We’re going forward, instead, to something new and different and better.
I’m grateful to be here, to be connected to all the efforts of the many people working for those who need food and housing. I appreciate the support I continue to receive from people I’ve come to know in this world.
This Thanksgiving I’m grateful for you. I feel a kinship in your readership so that, in my search to spread the word about hunger in our country, I know that I am never alone.
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There aren’t many books about there about hunger in America. Whenever I think of books about food pantries, the first writer I think of Sara Miles.
Well, it turns out that Sara Miles has a special friend, a writer friend.
I found Anna Woofenden’s book, “This is God’s Table” by accident on a table at the Barnes and Noble store in Kingston, New York. If only I could give copies of Anna Woofenden’s book to everyone. And, I mean everyone, including you.
Anna Woofenden started a Garden Church without walls in a vacant lot on 6th Street in San Pedro, California.
Anna placed a cedar stump table in the center of her worship space and consecrated it when she anointed it with oil.
From that moment, people joined her as they gardened, worshiped, and ate together weekly. All were welcome at God’s Table.
Whenever everyone is welcome, they all come. This welcoming, worshiping, and eating together attracts the old and the young, the housed and unhoused, the rich and the poor, and everyone in between.
I invite you to get a copy of Anna Woofenden’s book, “This is God’s Table”, and read it.
You can connect with her at https://www.AnnaWoofenden.com.
Again, thank you for reading this blog post.
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I got an email survey question yesterday.
“Did your landlord reduce your rent?”
Somehow, I can’t get this question out of my head. It just keeps grabbing my attention at every opportunity. What a question!
The answer is “NO!”
No landlord has lowered anyone’s rent in this area. Rents are going up, up, and up. In fact, rents are disappearing.
My landlord is evicting my neighbors. They live in one half of the duplex next door. The other side is air bnb…or maybe vrbo…or any one of several other vacation rental apps so popular on everyone’s computer and phone.
Until last year, both sides of the duplex were vacation rentals. Then, the town supervisor cracked down on them so the landlady made one side a monthly rental.
Immediately, a lovely young couple moved in. They are the perfect tenants. No noise, no clutter, no smells, no noisy children. Their footprint is the smallest they can manage.
Well, small footprint or no footprint, their days are numbered.
I see them packing up their possessions and driving them away – a few cartons every day. The boxes are going to a storage unit until they can find a new place to live. So far, they’ve had no luck.
They want to stay in Woodstock because this is their home town. Growing up, Gaby skated and bicycled on every street in this town.
Well, there are no places to rent in this town. Woodstock is a vacation rental town all the way.
This lovely young couple seeks shelter in other communities: Palenville, Catskill, Athens.
Meanwhile, the landlord eagerly advertises both units as vacation rentals. The young couple must go. His list of eager vacationer applicants is long. He’s sorry the young couple has no home.
But, life must continue.
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Woodstock, New York
Paul has been on my mind all week.
One of my oldest friends, I knew him and worked with him when I worked and lived in Virginia – just outside Washington D.C.
Back then, we had Kelly Girls. Paul was my very best Kelly Girl. I could send him anywhere – well, not to the male chauvinist lawyer who would only pay for a cute legal secretary. But all the others loved his work.
He showed up on time for his assignments and he turned out a perfect work product. He was a bargain. Whatever he did, he made the client feel that Paul gave more than the money’s worth for every job done.
Everyone knew Paul was homeless. Nobody cared. He was the best typist out there. (This was before computers, you understand.) A quality work product counts for a lot when it comes time to pay the bill, after all.
So why have I been thinking about Paul all week? It was the Duct Tape that did it. My watch band broke and I need the watch. I drove over to Genter’s Jewelry Store in Saugerties and discovered a “for rent” sign where the “open” sign used to be. Mr. Genter always fixed everything . He didn’t care whether it was a watch band, a clock, a necklace.
He also sold silver and gold chains at bargain prices. And, he custom designed a coin for me. His work was exacting. Genter’s was my go-to destination for all things jewelry.
Genter’s is a statistic of the Coronavirus. With Mr. Genter gone, what was I going to do? I physically grieved when I saw the sign in the window.
I went straight for the Duct Tape. I now wear a watch held together with Duct Tape. I’m getting used to it, actually. My sense of urgency diminishes a little more each day.
I’m sure I’ll get along just fine with the Duct Tape. Paul Did.
Duct Tape adorned most of Paul’s clothes and anything else he used. Duct Tape held Paul’s shoes together. Duct Tape held the watch on Paul’s arm. Duct tape even kept Paul’s eyeglasses going. Finally, Duct Tape held Paul’s winter coat together.
So, following in Paul’s example, Duct Tape will keep my fitness watch going.
I rather like my new Duct Tape look. And, I like remembering Paul. He always made me smile. And, smiles these days are hard to come by.
Thanks Paul! You set a good example. This Duct Tape will work until I can find Mr. Genter, just as Duct Tape held your shoes together until you could find a newer used pair of shoes.
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Woodstock, New York
PS: You can order one or more of the fancy T-shirts pictured in this post today at :
I also wrote about Paul in “No Fixed Address.”
Miracles happened in the food pantry. It took me a while to realize this and then it took another while to accept that such a thing could happen in the basement of a small town church in Upstate New York.
I sneaked miracle stories in on the blog posts. I sneaked them on the pages of “I Don’t Hang Out in Churches Anymore”. Finally, I gave them their own pages – as much as I had the nerve for anyway, in a short book “Miracles”.
Research on miracles taught me some things.
I learned that miracles often include weeping statues, broken legs healing straight, relics, stigmata, and visions. The pantry miracles included none of those things.
Our miracles never really cured anyone. I never saw a statue weep, and no one came down with stigmata.
Instead, they showed us all how to grow and love and forgive. It was giving away the food that was the tip off for me.
As far as I can tell, the food pantry miracles were not the result of prayer.
God just showed up and brought food. Once he came disguised as a fireman. Each miracle was a complete surprise, a unique and different event. God came when the pantry shelves were bare and the lines were long.
I don’t think the miracles proved that any of the shoppers or volunteers were more faithful than anybody else in town. Frankly, I think that some of us saw the miracles as coincidences or something.
However they were seen, these events made an impact on a small number of people who saw them as they happened.
The clincher for me occurred when I finally realized and accepted a few basic things:
Carloads of food never showed up when we didn’t need it.
Boots never appeared on the shelves disguised as toothpaste in the summertime.
Nobody ever brought a handful of nails to fix the barn when the wall wasn’t falling.
Two books appeared on my desk out of the ethers: “Miracles” by Tim Stafford and “Looking for a Miracle” by Joe Nickell gave a feeling of legitimacy to my thoughts and memories.
Because of Tim Stafford, I wrote my book entitled “Miracles”. He was direct about a few things – one of them being that people should not spread “miracle gossip”. Because of his feelings about what he called “miracle gossip”, I’m compelled to relate the pantry miracle stories.
To sneak them in blog posts does not do them justice.
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Starving Seniors? Food insecure seniors? Are those terms too harsh?
Let’s ratchet them 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 (or me…I’m certainly a grandmother) caught in a situation where there’s simply not enough food in the house. They are food insecure.
In these times, we seniors living on Social Security are finding ourselves routinely choosing between food and medicine, food and transportation.
I have two friends who daily hitch rides to the grocery store because their cars don’t work any more. Here, in the middle of this health crisis, they are in a desperate situation not of their making. Everyone is trying to shelter in place, wear face masks and gloves, practice social distancing, and find a friend to help get food.
Walking to a store is totally out for one: her hip and knee replacements won’t allow it. And, we’re not supposed to be out in public anyway.
And, how can a person buy a used car these days anyway? And, when the car gives up the ghost, how will we get to work? Yes, I know lots of seniors who are figuring out ways to bring in $$$.
The issues with seniors and food insecurity are serious because when seniors no longer have $$$ to buy the food they need for nutrition or when they can no longer buy the medicines they need, they become ill and finally end up being cared for by their children or they end up in a nursing home.
I know many stories about:
The senior in Woodstock living on mashed potatoes.
The older woman in Bearsville who ended up in a nursing home when her take-out food pantry cut her off and she couldn’t get to a grocery store.
The older man who lacks $$$ for enough food and is slowly starving.
There is food available:
If they can get to a food pantry or If they can find a pantry offering takeout
If they can sign up for SNAP (food stamps).
If they have the strength to deal with long lines and frazzled volunteers.
I spoke recently with a retired man I know:
“Richard, do you get SNAP?”
“Why, Richard? SNAP is usually easy to get. All you have to do is apply.”
“Well, I’m getting by without it. Let someone else, needier than me, get the $$$ Besides, I hear the lines are outrageous.”
“Richard, think about getting SNAP. This is a benefit you paid for. Why leave $$$ on the table?”
The barriers to SNAP for seniors are great. Seniors resist going to a pantry, soup kitchen, getting SNAP until they simply cannot resist any longer. I know the feeling. People in my age category grew up and entered adulthood feeling that if we worked hard and paid our taxes, we would end up okay. We worked all our lives with this attitude and now that we’re retired…there simply isn’t enough.
When this happens, we feel inadequate and blame ourselves. “I must have done something wrong. Here I am living hand-to-mouth. I don’t even have enough $$$ for food. What did I do wrong?”
We are a whole generation of people blaming ourselves. I feel like we’re really not totally to blame for being food insecure.
I tell myself the rules have changed. This pandemic has shifted everything. Because we’re retired, we’re not in the rules-making game anymore.
Whatever happened to the Grey Panthers?
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