“I heard you need volunteers. I’m here.”
The man standing at the door of the food pantry room on that gorgeous afternoon in April was short, probably weighed less than 125 pounds, and had a deep voice. Guy looked to be a little younger than me so that put him in his 60’s. Since I’m terrible at guessing ages, I had no idea whether he was about 61 or about 69. I only knew he was too young to be 70..
I had no idea, no premonition, about Guy Oddo being important in the pantry. I completely overlooked the vibe of this momentous event. I always did that. And then, later, I would remember the moment and comment to myself about how, I was never, ever aware of its importance. And, setting eyes on Guy was no exception.
Guy Oddo was destined to become the food pantry hallway czar.
And, it’s just as well. If I’d been aware of what was happening at that moment, I would’ve gotten all excited and jittery and he would have wandered off thinking to himself that he didn’t want to get mixed up with pantry volunteers where a ditzy old cotton top woman hung out.
“Thanks for coming in! Can you greet the shoppers in the hallway today?” As I said this, I took the sign in sheet off a shelf in the pantry room and handed it to him. Since the beginning of my time in the pantry, no one had been specifically assigned to this task. I just handed over the sign in sheet to anybody who would accept it and asked them to sign in the shoppers. If no one was available, I did it myself while I distributed the groceries.
My thought at that moment was that if this man, Guy, who just walked in the door, would hand around awhile, I could, maybe, hopefully, put him in charge of the list. I had handed this list to many would be volunteers over the months. So far, none of them was interested. This list was, incidentally, the single most important piece of paper in the pantry.
People signed their names when they shopped in the pantry. So the list counted the people. Shoppers also shared the members in their household. We always asked “How many children, adults, and seniors are in your household.”
Then, at the end of the month, I added up the totals and sent them off to the Hunger Prevention Nutrition Assistance Program (HPNAP). These totals were important. They pantry got food every month based on them.
Up to this moment, our list was more a lick and a promise than anything else. With no one person in charge of it, I felt we were losing names which meant we were losing food. More shoppers translated to more food.
As the afternoon wore on and Guy and I worked together, something about his voice convinced me he was going to be around more than a day or even a week, that he wanted a list to take care of.
As it turned out, he wanted not only the list but also the hungry shoppers located all over the place in the overcrowded church parking lot as they waited to get in the basement hallway and then to get in the pantry. The whopper population was made up of hungry people who, for the most part, had been on a spiritual path which ended outside the door of the pantry.
Misfortune was common in the hunger community. Some shoppers seemed to be beaten down by it. The thing I learned from seeing misfortune in action was that it can happen to anyone. The important thing was how they dealt with it. Some overcame misfortune while others were themselves overcome and lost their voices entirely.
“Hi. C’mon in. Sign in. I’ll call you as soon as your number comes up.” Guy greeted the shoppers.
Over time, Guy became the first to first to arrive and the last to leave on pantry day. He was combination greeter, concierge, information desk, hallway policeman, expediter, and director of personnel. And, just because…As I walked into the pantry room to distribute food, I handed him my cell phone. He took calls throughout the afternoon from troubled or inquiring shoppers.
Last, but certainly not least, he made me feel safe.
I never told anyone, but I had several experiences in the pantry and in the community that put fear on the front burner of my life. I knew, as a healer, that evil surrounded my presence in the pantry. Feeding hungry people without strings was not an acceptable philosophy for many people.
I came down on the side of feeding hungry people according to guidelines set down by the Hunger Prevention Nutrition Acceptance Program (HPNAP). Many in town definitely differed.
The bottom line was that I feared that the building committee of the church would shut the pantry down. For me, that would be a catastrophe because the hungry people simply had no place else to go for food.
So, there I was feeding hungry people in a small town food pantry in the basement of a church. Each week the line was longer than the week before. The wait to get in the pantry room to shop for two or three minutes was often an hour – in the broiling heat, the freezing cold, or a flooding rain.
AN OLDER MAN
He shopped in the pantry weekly and never uttered a word. His only message was embroidered on his baseball cap: Korean War Veteran.
This man who fought as a soldier in the brutal Korean conflict in the early 1950’s was now, as an old man, reduced to standing in a line for food.
A FATHER TO BE
“I live in my car. My wife is pregnant. We’ve got her in a woman’s shelter. I’m working two jobs to get the money together for the baby.”
A FAMILY MOVING ON
“We’re really stressed out today. I don’t know where we’re going to go. We got evicted because I don’t have the money to pay the weekly camping fee. The woman next to us in the campground is almost as broke as we are but she gave me $5.00 for gas because we have to leave.”
Please join me.
You are invited to attend my Author’s Reading and book signing on Saturday morning, September 22nd at 10:00 am on the grounds of the Mower’s Meadow Flea Market.
Refreshments will be served.
School is starting. And, once again, the focus of my life has adjusted itself. Hunger takes us all to new places that we never thought we would go.
For me, I spent the past two years writing my hunger book. I felt as if I’d gone into a cave…a writer’s cave. And, of course, with all this time in the cave, the inevitable finally happened: a book signing.
I finished the book! Not only that, I’m working on the follow-on volume. But, that’s getting off message.
A book signing is always appropriate in September.
Where? I’m selling the book at the Mower’s Meadow Flea Market in Woodstock. Somehow, I feel this was the logical direction I was headed from the first day: a book signing.
I sell the book….and a lot more. While selling the book, people purchase other used books and gently used items to raise money for the hungry.
I’m selling items and collecting donations to buy peanut butter for a pantry which doesn’t have any on the shelves on the day I call the pantry. Why peanut butter?
Peanut butter doesn’t need refrigeration.
It can be eaten by people who no longer have teeth.
Peanut butter has a generous shelf life.
For homeless people, peanut butter is a staple.
But, getting back to the basics, people are dropping gently used items off at my home. I wash them, or dust them off, and otherwise freshen them up and then take them to Mower’s Meadow on Saturdays, Sundays, and Wednesdays.
The prices are reasonable. The items are really nice. People fighting hunger are being really generous.
Lucy and Erin made a wonderful banner for my booth so people know what’s happening in the booth.
Thank you for reading this blog post. Please refer it to your preferred social media network.
I look forward to seeing you at the Book Signing at 10:00 on the 22nd!
More and more pantries offer fresh vegetables and fruits. A challenge sometimes is making it last when it gets to your kitchen. Following are a few tips to help keep the food better. Even though it’s only going to be around for a day or two before you eat it, you want it to look its best, taste its best, and have the most nutrients possible.
FRESH FRUITS AND VEGETABLES
Store LETTUCE, SALAD GREENS, and MUSHROOMS in a refrigerator on the middle or lower shelf away from fans because these items freeze quickly.
CUCUMBERS suffer from chill damage. You’ll have better luck with them if you store them on an upper shelf or on the door of the refrigerator.
CITRUS FRUITS release ethylene gas so it’s best to separate CITRUS FRUITS, MELONS AND APPLES away from delicate foods such as LETTUCE.
Some fruits and vegetables should not be refrigerated: BANANAS, GRAPEFRUITS, LEMONS, LIMES, MANGOES, MELONS, ORANGES, PAPAYAS, POTATOES, ONIONS, TOMATOES, AND AVOCADOS all do better when stored on a counter top.
Ripening some fruits on a counter top is best: AVOCADOS, KIWI FRUIT, NECTARINES, PEACHES, PEARS, AND PLUMS. After these foods are ripe, you may choose to put them in the refrigerator.
Fruits to store in the refrigerator include: APPLES, APRICOTS, BLACKBERRIES, BLUEBERRIES, CHERRIES, CUT FRUITS, FIGS, GRAPES, ASIAN PEARS, RASPBERRIES, STRAWBERRIES
Vegetables to store in the refrigerator include: ASPARAGUS, GREEN BEANS, LIMA BEANS, BEETS, BROCCOLI, BRUSSELS SPROUTS, CABBAGE, CARROTS, CAULIFLOWER, CELERY, COLLARD GREENS, CUT VEGETABLES, ESCAROLE, GREENS, GREEN ONIONS, LEAFY VEGETABLES, LEEKS, LETTUCE, MUSHROOMS, PEAS, RADISHES, SPINACH, SUMMER SQUASHES, AND SWEET CORN.
When working with poultry, the wrapping should be completely unbroken with no punctures.
Raw poultry should have a fresh smell with no odor. It should be firm to the touch. It should not be sticky. There should be no discoloration. The internal temperature of raw poultry should be lower than 40F degrees.
Poultry should be stored separately from all other foods. It should be kept on the lowest shelf in the refrigerator to prevent contamination from dripping.
Anything that comes in contact with poultry or its juices should be cleaned and sanitized immediately.
Frozen poultry should have no soft spots.
Partially thawed poultry should be used immediately.
Poultry cannot be kept at room temperature for more than two hours.
Wash hands immediately after handling poultry.
Milk stays fresh up to six days past the sell-by date. Frozen milk can be stored longer.
If milk sours, use it in a baking recipe calling for buttermilk.
Sour milk is not unsafe to drink.
COTTAGE CHEESE, YOGURT, SOUR CREAM, AND CREAM CHEESE are considered to be cultured products with a longer shelf life than milk. If the container is open, cultured products can be used up to six weeks past the sell-by date.
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Peace and food for all.
O Heavenly Father
I offer You gratitude for all Your blessings and love which You continually share with parents struggling with underemployment, poor health, insufficient food, transportation challenges.
I ask You, the source of all living things, to protect and guard parents who shop at the pantry.
Help them listen to their children’s needs as they struggle to live a life with insufficient resources… time, money, housing, health care.
Offer the peace which can only come when they know that You are a part of their lives every day.
O Heavenly Father, help them overcome their greatest fear – hunger.
Guide their lives so that no one in their household is hungry.
Encourage them to see the positive aspects of their lives.
Teach them to co-create abundance
Give them the courage to reach out when their needs are overwhelming.
Let them know that they can be secure in their paths.
Teach them to travel through their lives with grace.
Offer them the wisdom they need to hear Your guidance.
When, if…they question the struggle, please let them know You are with them always.
Please, gently touch their lives with your healing hands when health issues become almost too much to bear.
I ask these things in Jesus’ name.
Thank you for reading this blog dedicated to food pantries.
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Art Work donated by Jennette Nearhood
There will be no new articles until after the first week in January because I am working on my reflexology book.
Thank you for your patience. This is a project which I must finish.
I wish you a truly joyful and abundant new year!