“You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water.” – Psalm 63:1
“That person lives in Shandaken. He shouldn’t even be here.”
The pantry served shoppers, volunteers, hungry people. Volunteers fed everyone in the line. No exceptions.
Distributing groceries brought forgiveness and healing. Healing was an after thought of forgiveness.
For me, healing required some commitment and thought. Whether or not this was true, questions always arose:
“Am I ready to be healthy?”
“Can I get well if it’s scary?”
“Can I leave the old me aside if it’s necessary for healing?”
“Why am I going through this?”
“What is the meaning of it all?”
These questions could be painful. Healing can be hard on everyone.
The pantry line had massage therapists, Reiki practitioners, medical intuitives, and other healers.
As a healer, I know healing happens on several levels in our lives: physical, mental, spiritual, emotional, mythical. Both healing and getting well were special challenges because many of the people in the hallway, the pantry room, and out in the parking lot didn’t have health care.
While he had his office, Woodstock had Dr. Longmore. After his office closed, things were tough for many. As health care became scarce, everyone became personally involved with the differences between healing and getting well. For some, this was part of the spiritual journey.
Hunger often went beyond a plate of beans or a jar of peanut butter. That’s why food is essential to healing. That’s where homemade soup comes in.
Sharing food in the pantry helped people heal. Fresh vegetables, eggs, and Bread Alone bread offered a healing experience with abundance. As we fed the shoppers, we helped ourselves and each other.
In some cases, the shoppers became the volunteers or the volunteers joined the shoppers. Shoppers came to get food and found they could volunteer. Volunteering changed them. As a person distributed groceries, the volunteer made contact with another person and was able to smile.
Pantry experiences coaxed us out of our own problems. Offering a sense of community gives back so much more.
Do you want to be healed? Healing and feeding are connected.
Sooner or later, we all get sick. Finally, we die.
No one escapes. This truth is harder on hungry people who have no $$$ for health care.
Hungry people are often blamed for their inability to deal with the situation. It’s as if it’s their fault for being down and out in Woodstock. If they lived right, they would be healthier, make more $$$ in their jobs.
If critics stopped and thought about how insufficient nutritious food, improper housing, and inadequate or nonexistent healthcare impacts a person, they might feel differently.
What did it matter that there were no jobs in the area and none of those that came open paid over $8.00 an hour?
Because they were down and out, they must be guilty of something.
They were negative thinkers, lacking faith, and basically lazy. Something.
They were gay, trans, promiscuous, alcoholics. Something.
They were freeloaders, irresponsible, flaky. Something.
Healing and getting well are two different things, acting in different ways. But, whether a person heals, gets well, or both, change happens.
“Do I want to heal?”
“Do I want to be well?”
“What if I come out of this experienced a different person?”
“What if it takes a long time?”
In the midst of this, the pantry offered some normalcy to the shattered lives of hungry people when they took pantry food home to wherever and whatever that was, fixed a meal, and served it to those in the household.
It was supper from the pantry.
Health issues pointed to the spiritual challenges which popped up on the path to the pantry. Healing was on the agenda. We all wanted to get well.
People getting well overcome symptoms. Getting well means doctor’s visits, therapy, pills, creams. These things were simply not an option for pantry shoppers because there was no money.
Symbolic healing occurred in the hallway on pantry days as shoppers and volunteers discussed their diabetes, PTSD, cancer, allergies.
Working and shopping in the pantry was therapy to volunteers and shoppers. These hallway conversations were cheaper than the physical and mental health services they had no money for anyway.
These conversations were essential because talking about a health issue promotes healing. Shared symptoms gave us all support, strength, validity.
Everyone walking through the door to the pantry, whether a shopper or volunteer, was asked to leave the past behind. This experience was different for everyone. But, think about it, how can we move forward into our new lives if we never give anything up.
For some, giving up the past means letting go of things lost: the job, the home, maybe the family, self-esteem, the car, good health, money, insurance, the pet, anger, or drugs.
As the past disappears, the remaining spiritual baggage weighs less and less. Prejudices become fewer. Fears diminish. We heal!
Some things surrendered were physical, some mental, and some emotional. But, one thing is certain, whatever the category, the experiences all had a spiritual aspect.
Giving and receiving food brought everyone a little peace.
Everyone coming to the pantry heals somehow. The pantry community supports and approves hungry individuals as they climb back on the road to wellness and something offering normalcy.
Nobody just wakes up one day and says “I think I’ll go down to the local food pantry and volunteer.” People spending time in pantries all travel down the path. Healing has signposts along the way.
Some needed physical healing. Volunteers occasionally came to the pantry so ill that they were barely able to make it into the building. When this happened, I stationed them at the Items of Dignity table distributing toilet paper, shampoo, razors. They offered one roll of toilet paper and one other item to each shopper.
Each week, Deanna slowly walked the two blocks to the pantry and then worked in the hallway a couple of hours while she gathered enough energy to return home.
“Don’t forget your roll of toilet paper, Judith. We’ve got some hand cream today. Can you use that or would you prefer tooth paste?”
When Deanna finally couldn’t work in the hallway anymore, Rachel gracefully sat at the Items of Dignity table helping shoppers choose their two items. Rachel lived in nearby Mt. Tremper. Her living situation seemed somewhat precarious because every few months she looked for a new place to live. She lived in her car a couple of times.
Thank you for reading this blog post. This is the first food pantry article on healing.
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After feeding hungry people in Woodstock for over 30 years, volunteers at the Good Neighbor Food pantry were asked to leave the pantry’s space at the Woodstock Reformed Church by June 1, when the pantry will close..
This didn’t happen because there were no hungry people to use the pantry. This pantry has been one of the largest in the area since it expanded in the economic downfall of 2008. Before that time, shoppers were mostly a couple dozen single homeless men and Woodstock colorful characters.
With the economic downfall, patronage escalated from 25 people per week to hundreds. Hungry people filled the halls. The line filed out the door into the parking lot.
Before the economic downfall, people came in and got one or two each of four basic items: cereal, tuna fish, peanut butter, soup. About the time that the crowds began to shop for food, the food bank changed the system to include fresh produce and a three-day-supply of food for every person in the household.
People left the pantry with bags of food: eggs, vegetables, fruit, yogurt, items of dignity.
Church members and townspeople never really accepted these changes.
People resented the changes they didn’t ask for. This was understandable. No one likes change, especially uninvited change.
They liked feeling only a few people in town needed food.
They liked thinking the pantry was “theirs” when it really belonged to the Food Bank. After all, that’s where the food came from. That’s where volunteer training came from. That’s where food and rent grants originated.
With the changes in food served came training classes at the Food Bank. Funds became available to assist pantries with rent, and utilities. At that time, the volunteer coordinator applied for and received a $1,000 rent grant to pay the church annually.
The $1,000 rent grant was new for the Woodstock Reformed Church. No food pantry volunteers had paid rent money to help the membership.
At the time, the intention was to increase the amount annually. $8,000 was a long range goal.
$8,000 was not out of line if the refrigerators and freezers were moved from the unpainted barn in the parking lot to the church basement.
A nationally known fundraising guru, Kim Kline, taught interested nonprofit volunteers how to raise money. She based her success on the premise that givers give. She told everyone in the class exactly what to do.
After this class, pantry volunteers in Woodstock did exactly as she instructed.
These fundraising efforts at the pantry made the Good Neighbor Food Pantry a success story. Secrets of successful fundraising are outlined in detail on pages 196 and 197 of the book “I Don’t Hang Out in Churches Anymore.”
The Good Neighbor Food Pantry need not close. There is time to raise the money needed. There are probably still volunteers in this pantry who remember these skills taught by Kim Kline.
There is still time to feed the many hungry people who need this food. The need is greater now than it has ever been.
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Thank you for your interest in feeding hungry people. Our need is greater now than ever before.
Woodstock, New York
We live in a country today in which people struggle for food. While hunger reaches historic levels, some are unaware of the plight of their neighbors. Others are not concerned. Food insecurity doesn’t seem relevant. Even pandemic hunger cannot convince everyone.
One child in seven lives in poverty. The family regularly chooses between food and gas, food and medicine, food and rent.
Adults often work more than one job. Until, with the pandemic, many people’s incomes disappear.
Retirees find themselves too old to work, have more month than money, and try to hide their situation from children and grandchildren.
Our elected leaders have not chosen to address this situation with even a fair minimum wage.
Beginning in 2007, I fed hungry people in one food pantry for several years and then started another food pantry in a nearby community needing one.
In 2013, I began to write about hunger. My experiences and lessons learned filled books and a blog.
In 2018, I began a consciousness-raising practice on weekends at the Mower’s Meadow Flea Market in Woodstock, New York.
Time spent feeding the hungry taught me this:
There is no excuse for anyone in our great nation to go hungry.
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And, finally, don’t forget to tell them about our key hat!
Meet our new fashion model! Mikayla is wearing our latest creation: a knit cap with a key embroidered on the cuff.
A symbol of homelessness, this hat tells our story BEAUTIFULLY. Hopefully you’ll enjoy wearing it as much as others do. It’s only $15. Please go to www.thurmangreco.com or email me at email@example.com to order your very own key hat!
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People needing to use a food pantry because they don’t have enough $$$, certainly don’t have resources for things like toothpaste, shampoo, razors, tampons, and other Items of Dignity.
There is something we can do about this little-known situation:
Hold an Items of Dignity drive. Actually, this is easier than a food drive because everyone seems to know what an item of dignity is.
People know what food is too, but some get confused about what is a good food item for a pantry. What about fresh produce? Is frozen food okay? are often asked questions during a food drive.
Items of Dignity don’t get stale. They don’t need refrigeration.
Actually, you hold an Items of Dignity drive the same way you hold a food drive: Gather your bags together, write your letter, and put them out in front of houses in the neighborhood you choose.
For more information about holding a food drive, please check out the last two posts. They reveal all the secrets.
When you donate these items to your chosen food pantry, the volunteers will be delighted.
If you are worried about having an Items of Dignity drive because the people may not need the items, don’t bother to worry. Right now, in our country, hunger reaches into all communities. Hunger is affecting people who never thought they would ever need food.
The items you collect and donate will be greatly appreciated.
Thank you in advance for all you are doing.
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P.S. Please let me know how your food drive is going.
Congratulations! You had a food drive!
Your work isn’t done yet. Now is a good time to think about your next food drive. It will be easier and more fun than the last one because you know more about your tasks!
When you organize for the next food drive, you’ll get to see how your last one worked.
Celebrate your goal. Did you have anyone helping you?
This is a good time to go out for a pizza or ice cream. Enjoy what you did and discuss how you helped your community as well as yourselves!
Pat yourself on your back.
A few weeks after your food drive, check in with the food pantry or other group who received all your collections.
Were the foods you collected useful?
Were you able to get enough of one item for the group to have a surplus?
What foods would have been appreciated which were not collected?
How can you improve your future food drives?
Now is a good time to plan your next food drive!
design a fact sheet that lists some foods that are needed. (The agency you
donated the food to may already have one you can use).
Write and send out a press release about your food drive and plans for the next one.
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Woodstock, New York
It’s easier than you think.
Choose the food pantry, homeless shelter, school, church, food bank, or soup kitchen to receive the food you collect.
Contact your recipient, and learn what items the hungry people need. Try to be specific. Can they only accept canned food items or can they use frozen and fresh foods? What about pet food?
If they need pet food or food for homeless people, for example, request those items (with specific food item suggestions) at your drive.
Decide how you want to collect the donated food.
The method I prefer is, of course, the one that worked for me several times. I recommend this method:
Gather some large empty grocery bags in good condition.
Attach a letter to each one saying something like:
“We are having a food drive in this neighborhood. Please fill this bag with food and set it out on your entryway on ………………………….. when it will be picked up between 00:00 and 00:00. Include am and pm to be more specific.
We need the following kinds of food:……………………..
Your donated food will be donated to ……………………………… Thank you for your generosity. If you have any questions, please call…………………………………. Signed…………………………………….”
Set the bags out at every address in the area you selected.
On the appointed date, return to the addresses and pick up the bags of food.
Deliver them to the selected food pantry, homeless shelter, school.
Pat yourself on your back. You did a great job!
My experience with this food drive method is that people respond positively because you give them bags, tell them exactly what food items you need, and return to pick up the food at a specific time on an exact date.
Thank you in advance for all you are doing to feed your neighbors.
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Have a wonderful day!
Actually, there are literally thousands of foods which are good for a food drive. Choose the foods that make eating easy.
Many food drives and food distribution activities are springing up throughout our country. Thank Goodness!
People are shopping at food pantries and food distribution centers in greater numbers than ever before. People who never, ever, even paid attention to food pantries now find themselves in lines.
We have now reached the point where we all have choices: If we don’t need to shop at a pantry, then we need to give food to a pantry.
So, then, the question: What are good things to give?
The answer: any foods which make eating easy.
Breakfast foods include:
cereal, granola, granola bars, protein bars, shelf stable milk, juice.
peanut butter, jelly, canned fruit, canned pasta, tuna, mayonnaise, and catsup.
pasta with sauce, taco kits, canned soups, stews, canned beans, macaroni and cheese, canned tuna, salmon, sardines, chicken.
People shopping at a food pantry also need items such as salt, pepper, sugar, seasonings, cooking oil, mayonnaise, mustard, catsup, paper towels, paper napkins, forks, knives, spoons. Is there an item that you use regularly, maybe that item will be good for a food pantry gift.
Items of Dignity:
soap, shampoo, laundry soap, dishwashing soap, sanitary napkins, toilet paper. toothpaste, tooth brushes. razors
diapers, baby soaps, baby lotion, baby foods
pet food, both dried and canned; cat litter, puddle pads, gently used pet beds, leashes.
food that does not need refrigeration, food that can be distributed in single servings
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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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