Hunger Is Not a Disease

Food Pantry Rules

A food pantry is what it is because of three things:

the economic situation at the moment

the volunteers

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.

Thank you.

Thurman Greco

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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I Don’t Hang Out in Churches Anymore – Coming Soon!

IT’S COMING SOON!

After countless reams of computer paper, dozens and dozens of writing classes, three computers and two copiers, the book about hunger is at the publisher’s!

And, I actually heard the word “done” today!  I’m ecstatic beyond words!

Somebody else could have done it with only one computer disaster  and  one copier blow up.  But, I never claimed to be a writer.

This endeavor took years.  And, it was worth it.    I felt  this story needed to be told when I started writing it in 2013 and I’m sticking to my opinion.  Hunger in America was then and is now a national event which needs to be shared.

A real Woodstock story, “I Don’t Hang Out in Churches Anymore” tells about   the people in the pantry,  channels my grandmother,  and reveals a few  miracles.

I’m proud to say that “I Don’t Hang Out in Churches Anymore” will, within days, be available in paperback and eBook editions on Amazon.

I am already scheduling book signings for this book.  If you are in the area, I look forward to seeing you at one near you!

You can purchase this book by going to my website at http://www.thurmangreco.com.

Order your copy, and please share this unbelievably exciting news!

Thurman

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The Homeless

The homeless have problems just like you and me:  employment, health issues, disabilities, domestic violence.   They just don’t have a roof over their heads.

Homeless people, families enter food pantries very quietly.  They’ve lost their voices.  The goal is to melt into the background, get food, and disappear.

There’s an exception to the voicelessness –  when the person communicates with beings unknown to the rest of us.  One shopper I know has been in another world since before I  began working in the pantry in 2005.  He communicates in a high, shrill, unknown tongue which I cannot describe.  His shrill vowels are punctuated with hard, sharp whistles, clicks, squeaks.

We can all help homeless people in some way.  Each of us has talents and skills which can be useful.

DONATE.  Homeless people carry their kitchens in their pockets .  So much food which we take for granted is just not helpful.  Important in the homeless diet is peanut butter and crackers in individually wrapped packages, cereal in self-serve packaging.  Fruits and vegetables which can be eaten raw, milk and/or fruit juice in individual containers.  Donate these items throughout the year by regularly giving the food to a food pantry in your area which is homlesss friendly.

VOLUNTEER.  Pantries everywhere need an extra set of hands to answer mail, drive a truck, serve food, clean up at closing time, send press releases, hold food drives, stock and straighten shelves, deliver food to the home bound.

CLEAN OUT YOUR CLOSETS.  Donate clothing, bedding, books, and other gently used items to places where the homeless will have access to them.

SHARE.  Do you or someone you know have a garden?  Donate the excess to a homeless friendly pantry in your area.  When your garden tomatoes get to be too plentiful, there are those in your area who need the food.

PUSH THE ENVELOPE.  Contact elected officials about homeless issues in your area.  Encourage them to make ending homelessness important in your community.

EDUCATE YOURSELF.  Returning veterans have special needs.  For one thing, they begin separation from the military homeless.

FIND A JOB.  Encourage your church or community to hire a homeless person.  Many homeless want to work, have skills, but have trouble finding regular employment.

DO YOU HAVE A SKILL TO SHARE?  Contact a local shelter and offer to give classes.

For a time, one of our most trusted volunteer/shoppers was homeless.  His partner, Nancy,  died and her children didn’t want him in the house they had lived in together for many years.  He fought her children for a year with a lawyer, made several trips to court,  the whole enchilada.

He finally moved out and ended up homeless for a time.  He eventually got housing through a homeless veterans program.  I helped him move his clothes and things over to his new apartment in Saugerties.

Homelessness cannot be generalized.  Each homeless person is a special personality and has a special situation which s/he deals with.  So here’s my rule about homeless people:

IF YOU’VE SEEN ONE HOMELESS PERSON, YOU’VE SEEN ONE HOMELESS PERSON.

Thank you for reading this blog post.  Please share it with your preferred social media network.

BOOK UPDATE:  The new hunger book is going to be out soon.  The publisher assures me that we’re going to see the book within a month!  Hurrah!

Thanks again

Thurman

 

 

SNAP

SNAP is important.  SNAP will help you if you are having trouble buying groceries.

SNAP is important for your community, too, because when you are able to get food with SNAP, you will have cash available to help pay your rent or buy gas to get back and forth to work.

Have you, or has someone you know, applied for SNAP?  SNAP was formerly known as food stamps..  SNAP is about all that’s left in the way of assistance for people because welfare is shrinking and shrinking and shrinking yet again.

If you are having trouble paying for your groceries, now is a good time to apply.  If you’ve applied in the past and were denied, maybe you need to apply again.  You may, after all, have answered a question incompletely or incorrectly and were denied this benefit.  Try again.  You might do better this time around, especially if you or someone in your house is disabled or is a senior with medical expenses.

Some people are reluctant to apply for SNAP because they don’t know if they are eligible.  Or, maybe they applied in the past but were denied.  Many people don’t know how to apply and are overwhelmed by the application.  Some people have never heard of SNAP and think of it as food stamps.

One thing:  If you work, you need to know how to meet the work requirements.

Some information is needed to successfully apply for SNAP.  This information comes in several categories.

Proof of income is necessary.  This comes in the form of pay stubs, social security income information.

An identification is needed.  This might be a State ID, passport, birth certificate, etc.

Bills help.  This will include medical, heating, water, auto, rent.

Your social security number and the numbers of everyone in your household is necessary.

Dependent Care Costs will help.  These include day care costs, child support, attendant for disabled adult.

Contact your local Department of Social Services office to arrange for application assistance.  If this doesn’t work for you, contact your Office on Aging or Catholic Charities.

SNAP is an important benefit which will help you if you are having trouble buying groceries.

SNAP is important for your community, too, because when you are able to get food with stamps, you will have cash available to help pay your rent or buy gas to get back and forth to work.

SNAP is important for your household because you’ll be able to get more food with your SNAP card and you won’t be hungry anymore.

This translates to better health.

Thank you for reading this blog post.

Please share this article with your preferred social media network.

Please forward this article to anyone and everyone you know who might be able to have a better life with SNAP.

Thurman Greco

This book is being published now and will be available soon!

This book will be going to the publisher before the end of the year.

 

Take $1 – Leave $1

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The young musician’s sign said it all:

TAKE $1

LEAVE  $1

She sat on the sidewalk in front of Houst the other day, with her guitar box open.  True to Woodstock tradition, she was singing for  tips.  Her sign, her posture, her music really resonated with me.  I really feel that we are now fast approaching the point in our country  where our residents are divided into two groups:

those who use pantries, soup kitchens

those who do not use pantries, soup kitchens

So, that puts us in the Take $1 –  Leave $1 lifestyle.

Food pantries  and soup kitchens, through the food distribution process work relentlessly to end hunger.  Most  people working in pantries or soup kitchens are volunteers who understand  they offer hope and sustenance to a community of people living with and affected by  hunger and, in some cases, homelessness.

Any amount you can spare will help make the pantry or soup kitchen you support a better place.  Please send a donation today.  Your gift will make a difference in the lives of people who have little and need a lot.  Take $1 – Leave $1

Thank you in advance for your generosity.

Thurman Greco

Thank you for reading this blog.  The story is true.  The people are real.

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http://www.feedingamerica.org

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:

White

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

smile

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.

http://www.allianceforpositivehealth.org

http://www.nysenior.org

http://www.foodbankofhudsonvalley.org

http://www.ChooseMyPlate.gov

Thank you for reading this blog/book.

Please refer this article to your preferred social media network.

Thurman Greco

 

 

 

 

Grocery shopping is always a problem for the elderly.

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I first met her outside the shed at the Reservoir Food Pantry.    A recent widow, I heard her comment “I just never knew how hard it was going to be as a widow.”  Her husband died just over a year ago and she’s still making her way toward accepting her new reality.

“I never knew it would be so difficult…being alone like this.   I’ll never tell my children I come here.  I don’t want them to know.”

As she spoke, she wiped an occasional tear while moving through the pantry  line with a group of women, all about her own age.  They were choosing corn and apples, squashes,  greens, onions, potatoes.  As the line snaked forward, she turned her attention to the canned goods:  beans, soup, fruits, veggies.

Pat hasn’t made it to the food stamp office in Kingston.  For one thing, it’s a good half hour down Route 28.  For another, she’s afraid:

of the forms,

the humiliation of being unable to survive on her own,

the long wait in a building she may not even be able to find,

finally, she’s afraid of the whole process which she finds frightening.

Her financial situation isn’t so far from all the other older women in the pantry line.  Grocery shopping for the elderly is difficult under the best of circumstances.    Getting to the grocery store can be challenging for older people – getting around in the parking lot and going up and down the grocery store aisles is no fun anymore.  And, then, when they can’t find what they need, they have to maneuver the muddy parking area and the scary entrance ramp at the pantry.  And…we haven’t even discussed the packages yet.  They’ve got to be gotten home and in the house (wherever and whatever that is).

Finally, getting high quality, affordable food is more and more difficult as the days go by.  And, as difficult as it is for Pat, she’s one of the lucky ones.  She’s got a working automobile.

Combine the lack of a working automobile, bad weather,  not enough $$$ and you’ve got the makings of a disaster for a senior.

I keep telling everyone who’ll listen that seniors should get their SNAP card, a list of nearby pantries, and their first social security check at the same time.  So far, nobody has listened.  Of course not.  Why should they?  We’ve all got gray hair.

Seniors struggle with the big 3:

food

housing

medical expenses.

Forget the extras like clothing.  As seniors, we get less, pay more, and go without.  When I need something new to wear, I go to the boutique of my closet.

Healthcare costs can be devastating, even to a senior with medicare.  Once a person comes down with cancer or other expensive disease, the pocketbook  empties pretty fast.

There is  real pressure to feed the rising tide of hungry people at every pantry.  We get questionnaires periodically from different agencies wanting to know how often we run out of food.  How does “weekly” sound?

The  Big 3 for pantries include:

high unemployment

widespread poverty

deep cuts in social spending programs.

Pantries, for the most part, are

arbitrary,

subjective,

strongly biased

when it comes to deciding who can and cannot receive food.  There are simply too many agencies with too many people standing in line for too little food for any food bank or state office to properly oversee and supervise the selection process.

As far as feeding the hungry, we’re not even coming close to filling the need created by the widespread poverty and deep spending cuts.  People in food pantry lines are, in a severe winter, choosing between eating and heating.

Our pantry, housed in a shed, an old green house, and the back of a restaurant is a ragtag emergency food movement which is in reality not emergency at all.

Lines and crowds outside our pantry on Monday afternoons can easily convince any onlooker that the good old U S of A  has a food problem.

http://www.reservoirfoodpantry.org

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Peace and food for all.

Thurman

 

7 Ways We Use Food Pantries

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Food Pantries feed the hungry…and very successfully at that, actually.  After all, there are very few stories right now about starving people dying in the streets. We Food Pantry volunteers can  pat ourselves on the back for that, at least.

But, so much more happens in a Food Pantry beyond feeding the hungry.

For starters, thousands of volunteers are kept gainfully occupied and off the streets as we (wo)man the pantries.

The United States Department of Agriculture disposes of thousands and thousands of pounds of surplus foods every year in Food Pantries.  Unfortunately, though, the USDA seems to have a somewhat embarrassed attitude about the distribution of agricultural surpluses.  Anybody who thinks about it quickly realizes that it’s impossible to grow just exactly what we need every year.  It’s much better to have too much than too little.  So, the USDA needs the Food Pantries to dispose of this surplus.  Sure beats hauling it off to the landfill.

Thank you USDA!  I just wish you felt better about the job you do.

Supermarkets use Food Pantries to dispose of food they can’t sell.  By donating produce,
baked goods,
meats,
packaged shelf staples,  
grocers  avoid dump fees, discourage dumpster divers, accrue tax savings, and tell the world about how many thousands of dollars they donated to feed the hungry.

Churches throughout this country feed the hungry in Food Pantries located in their basements. That is, all except for the famous St. Gregory’s Episcopal Church in San Francisco where Sara Miles put the pantry on the altar. She subsequently wrote a book about it entitled “Take This Bread”. I hope you get a chance to read it.
Congregations label their Food Pantries as outreach but I don’t buy into that concept. What we’re all doing, really, is celebrating the enormous abundance existing in this country…in this world…on this planet.

Environmentalists use Food Pantries to divert food bound for the landfill.  It’s amazing when you think about it.  Several million people in our country are prevented from starving to death when they shop at a Food Pantry and take home produce, dairy products, meats, baked goods, shelf staples that would otherwise have ended up at the landfill.

Schools throughout our fair nation distribute food to children to take home on the weekend. The Backpack Programs offer food to children who have none in their households.

It’s a real ego trip for whole segments of our society.  Everyone feels all warm and fuzzy about food donated to Food Banks.  This includes  farmers, grocers, food manufacturers, restaurants, bakers, religious and civic institutions feeding the hungry, and, of course, the people who read the stories about the generosity of these businesses.

This warm and fuzzy feeling we all get when we realize which businesses are contributing to feeding the hungry rubs off positively on Food Banks.  They, thankfully, are very influential charities as a result.  Food Banks rank right up there with hospitals, the United Way, and the Y.

And, it’s all good.  Food Banks need the $$$ to keep the whole industry going.  The demand for the food keeps growing and growing because the  minimum wage jobs don’t pay enough $$$ to allow workers to buy groceries.  SNAP benefits get whittled away each year.  There’s not much left except the Food Pantry.

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Please send a comment.

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http://teamnutrition.usda.gov
www.feedingamerica.org/officialsite
www.reservoirfoodpantry.org

Thurman Greco

There is no excuse for anyone in our country to be hungry.

GNP65

“Thanks for dropping by this afternoon.  We’re going to open the pantry in just a few minutes.  Please bear with us while I get this shelf stocked.”  It was only 1:00 and the place was already crowded.  What’re we going to do when there’s a freezing rain, I thought.

“Okay.  Come on in.   We’re ready.”

I HONESTLY DON’T KNOW WHAT PEOPLE THOUGHT WHEN THEY FIRST OPENED PANTRIES AND SOUP KITCHENS.  I’ve read that the idea was to offer emergency food.

Ever since the ’80s, volunteers at food pantries and soup kitchens have been working to feed people so they won’t be hungry for the coming few days.  What was once considered to be a crisis is now a way of life for many people unable to extricate themselves from poverty and destitution.  It’s also a way of life for the many volunteers working at soup kitchens and pantries throughout our country.

HUNGER IN AMERICA IS A SHAMEFUL SITUATION FOR THE ENTIRE COUNTRY.   There is no excuse for anyone in our country to be hungry.

A fairly common complaint I hear is:  “We shouldn’t be feeding these people.  This is not solving the problem.   There shouldn’t even be pantries.”

I submit to you that we’re facing 2 separate problems.  When a person shops at a pantry for a 3-day supply of food, an effort is being made to rescue this person and his/her household from the grip of food insecurity.

OFFERING FOOD IN A PANTRY KEEPS THE PERSON/HOUSEHOLD FROM GOING HUNGRY FOR THE FOLLOWING 3 DAYS.  THAT’S 9 MEALS.  THAT’S ALL.

Food pantries do not address poverty and destitution in our country.  Food pantries cannot address the urgent and ongoing need for:

shelter

job training

job referral

daycare

clothing

transportation

medical attention

adequate wages.

Many people shopping at pantries can get themselves out of the ongoing rut of poverty with help.  There’s a huge difference between feeding people a 3-day-supply of food weekly and lifting them out of poverty.

Food pantries are stop-gap measures used to keep hungry people from starving until our leaders in Washington reach viable solutions to the problems created by poverty.

Food pantries assist poor and destitute people use their minimum wage funds to get back and forth to work.

FOOD PANTRIES MAKE SURE OUR POOR AND DESTITUTE SENIOR CITIZENS WILL HAVE ENOUGH TO EAT SO THEY WON’T BE A BURDEN TO THEIR CHILDREN AND GRANDCHILDREN.

Food pantry volunteers  are on the front lines of the war against food insecurity.  Our concern is making sure there is enough food in our pantry to feed the people coming for help every week.  It’s all about food security.

Getting people out of poverty is not an issue for pantry workers  at all.  We cannot even begin to address this issue at the food pantry level.

As food providers, our situation is labor-intensive, unpredictable, and filled with crisis management situations.  We routinely deal with boxes weighing over 40 pounds each, loading docks, and parking lot accidents.

Politicians continually work to remove the safety net offered by SNAP cards, unemployment payments, health care.

One program which doesn’t get as much attention is the Earned Income Tax Credit, which is billed as a program designed to reward the low wage worker.  In reality, this subsidizes the employer, who can then pay lower wages without causing the worker so much pain that s/he can no longer afford to work.  This program benefits many large corporations.  It is a great tool for all big box employers.

Until there is a secure community safety net for the poor and destitute in our country, we will continue to feed a 3-day-supply of food weekly to families/households who don’t make enough $$$ to buy food after they pay for rent and transportation.  Their minimum wage paychecks simply don’t last a week.

Every time I serve a 3-day-supply of food to a working person, I am reminded that in our country working people  no longer have any  value to their corporate employers.  They are nothing more than  commodities to be exploited.

THE EVER INCREASING NUMBERS OF POOR AND HOMELESS LEADS ME TO BELIEVE THAT WITHOUT FOOD PANTRIES, MANY PEOPLE WILL STARVE.

Thank you for reading this blog/book.

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Peace and food for all.

Thurman Greco

 

Round 2 in the Food Pantry World – Food, Sex, and Money

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ARE YOU OLD ENOUGH TO REMEMBER HOW WE ACTED IN HIGH SCHOOL?  Everyone in class knew  the which students were acting right, following the rules,  and those who were not.  There was no privacy, really, and no secrets.

WELL, GUESS WHAT.  The same mentality exists in food pantries.  Everyone knows which pantries play by the rules and which ones don’t.  There are no secrets.

FOR ONE THING, THE SHOPPERS CAN TELL BY WHAT KIND OF FOOD THEY’RE GETTING.  Is  the food on pantry day composed of bent cans, stale bread trimmed in green, and frozen food which has obviously been refrozen more than twice?  If the answer to that question is “yes”, then it’s pretty obvious someone besides the shoppers is getting the fabulous produce, the wonderfully fresh Bread Alone Bread, and the quick frozen meats and veggies.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out the volunteers are taking it all for themselves and their neighbors.

PANTRIES COME EQUIPPED WITH GUIDELINES, AND RULES SIGNED OFF BY EXECUTIVE DIRECTORS AND COORDINATORS.  The rules are clear.

PANTRIES COME EQUIPPED WITH COORDINATORS WHO ARE TAUGHT THE RULES .  These coordinators are trained by, supervised by, and evaluated by the Food Bank.  Boards,

Church Committees, and volunteers are often surprised to learn that Food Bank supervisors do expect certain levels of performance from coordinators.

Until now, the Food Bank was quiet about what was happening.  Well, that attitude has changed.

IF YOU WORK IN A PANTRY THAT FORGOT THE RULES, or if you know about about a pantry with volunteers who forgot the rules, be prepared to expect a surprise or two in the coming months.

THE FOOD BANK HAS RULES.  The rules have teeth.  The Food Bank is no longer interested in keeping secrets.  After all, our court system is pretty open.  Misdemeanors and felonies are part of the public record.

Over the past few months, the Food Bank has terminated a few agency memberships.  Why?

Volunteers:

sold Food Bank products for their own profit.

kept food for themselves or gave it to family and  friends or other volunteers.

used products for unapproved activities.

forgot there are health standards and that pantries and pantry storerooms should be kept clean.

THANK YOU FOOD BANK.  Those of us working in honest pantries have hoped this would happen.  Personally, I feel that there are very few pantries operated by people who make up their rules as they go along and have no respect for the Food Bank.  These people are, however, ruining the whole scene for all of us.

If you shop at or volunteer at a pantry where the rules are not followed, please call 1-518-786-3691 and report the issue.

On behalf of honest pantry volunteers and hungry shoppers everywhere, thank you for reading this blog/book.

Please share this article with your preferred social network.

Please send a comment.

Peace and food for all.

Thurman Greco