Hunger Is Not a Disease

5 Important Things You Need to Know About SNAP


“Hunger and income inequality is probably the single biggest issue facing this country.” – Susan Zimet

When you use SNAP, you don’t  just get  much needed food for your household.  When you use SNAP, you  create a ripple effect of money  for your community.  You can use your SNAP card with pride knowing how your purchases will benefit your area.

Here’s how it works:  SNAP is federal money.  When you use your SNAP card at a local supermarket, you bring  it  into your community.    The grocer uses the  money to benefit the local grocery store.  This purchase strengthens local businesses.

Are you in a household with senior/disabled members? If so, you may still qualify for SNAP even if you have a higher income.  SNAP works for individuals, couples, and families.

Are you paying mandated child support?  If so, this money  you use to pay child support is not counted toward your income.

You can work and still qualify for SNAP, stretching  your food budget every month.  When you use SNAP, you  more easily afford the nutritious foods you and your family need.

You can shop at a food pantry and still qualify for SNAP.

SNAP can be an important addition to you and your household budget.  Apply for this benefit today to help yourself, your household, and your community.  How cool is that?

Thanks for reading this blog.

The story is true.  The people are real.

Don’t forget to join the email list.

Please refer this article to your preferred social media network and to anyone you know you may benefit from SNAP but is not using it.

Thurman Greco


The Inquisition – Food Pantry Meetings in Upstate New York

“We came closer to understanding the crazy circus logic of the witch-hunt that began.” – Kathy Bates
What a year! 2011 began with Gabrielle Giffords being shot in the head. Gaddafi was killed. Hosni Mubarak was forced from power. Osama Bin Ladin was killed. Hurricane Irene left destruction still not repaired. Our country entered its 10th year in Afghanistan, and unemployment hit 9%.
Meanwhile, in Woodstock, I remember 2011 as the year the building committee
Tried, really tried to get rid of me
Tried, really tried to return to the pre-2008 glory days of 25 shoppers a week
Tried, really tried to get rid of the cardboard
Tried, really tried to get rid of the fresh produce
Tried, really tried to reduce the pantry footprint by reducing the hours available to the volunteers
Tried, really tried to reduce the pantry footprint by reducing the number of volunteers permitted in the pantry at any given time
Tried, really tried to restrict the shoppers’ and volunteers’ access to the parking lot
Tried, really tried to get control of the money that was coming in to the pantry from donations.
They hosted several Inquisitions in July, August, and September to address their displeasure with everything they could think of, item by item. These meetings were attended by Ed Jabbs, Stewart DeWitt, and Barbara Moorman from the building committee. Pastor Bode attended the meetings also. Hatti Iles, Ann King, Mike Lourenso, Marilou Paturel, Karen White, and Jim Dougherty represented the community. I was only allowed to attend because, as the coordinator, I knew a lot about things that were going on which absolutely no one else knew. For starters, I knew the HPNAP rules and the Food Bank guidelines.
We all crowded around a large table in the corner room adjacent to the storeroom. Ed Jabbs sat at the head of the table with the posture of judge and jury. During the meetings he did all the talking for the building committee.
Barbara Moorman and Stewart DeWitt, building committee members, never uttered a sound unless he asked one of them a question. Two building committee members did not attend these meetings: Roger Shultis and Mike Cooter. Too bad for them because these two guys really couldn’t stand Thurman Greco and They would have love, love, loved to have been there. I never quite figured out why they weren’t included.
Certainly Roger Shultis knew a lot about the pantry activities. He spent pantry days in the hall watching everything with a scowl on his face.
Hatti Iles was the spokesperson for the community. Hatti is a local artist, very talented and well known. She practices martial arts, teaching Tai Chi in town. Hatti was very grounded when the situation got aggressive.
Thurman Greco was identified in all cases by Ed Jabbs as the main culprit in all complaints.
Huge on the agenda at the first inquisition in July was rot and vermin mitigation. They didn’t want produce because it brought bugs, rot, vermin, and cardboard. We had long discussions in which the building committee members discussed their opinions that all the produce coming into the pantry from whatever source was rotten.
Our response was that the produce came from the Food Bank in pristine condition and would not rot if kept cool. Which brought up yet again the problem that we needed more refrigerators which were never going to be admitted in the building: never, never, never. The fact that the Meals on Wheels kitchen across the hall from our pantry had several refrigerators and freezers was not even considered.
The pantry was not, ever, going to get more appliances.
The unspoken words: “We don’t want the pantry feeding this kind of food to these people. The unworthy hungry should go to Kingston. We’re going to do everything possible to stop the escalation of the shopper census. We’re going to do everything possible to reduce the pantry to the point where it’s serving 25 people per week again. You have ruined our pantry.”
The fact that there were no bugs or mice in the food was of no consequence. The presence of produce and cardboard invited these vermin and no argument was able to overcome their stand. Facts had no weight in this inquisition. They just didn’t want me in the pantry at all.
The building committee insisted that we store the produce in plastic bins with tight fitting lids. They demanded that the food be removed from the building on Thursday at the end of the pantry week.
Removing the food on Thursday at the end of the pantry week was certainly fine with me. We were taking the leftover produce to Family and then to the Woodstock Farm Animal Shelter.
Storing the produce in plastic bins with tight fitting lids was not. When produce is stored in airtight plastic bins, it can’t breathe. This speeds up the rotting process. However, I had to do this if I wanted the pantry to remain open.
To make their point, a church member went to Target and bought four of the largest plastic bins he would find to the tune of $150. These bins appeared in the pantry storeroom complete with the receipt for reimbursement. These bins were so large that, when filled with produce, they couldn’t be lifted by the volunteers.
The building committee digressed from the vermin/cardboard issue at the first meeting to establish that the pantry was renting the space by the hour and the value of the space is $20 per hour. We were paying a nominal sum for the rent: $1000 per year. The issue was that everyone needed to be clear that we weren’t paying our “freight”, as my grandmother in Texas would have said. Nothing was ever mentioned about the fact that, for years, the pantry had paid nothing for the space. I had begun to pay the church for the space because I felt the pantry needed to offer money to cover costs such as painting the walls, cleaning the bathrooms.
Offering the church money for the space was a seriously bad idea. We ended up cleaning the bathrooms ourselves and paying to paint the walls. The building committee resented the money because of the amount given.
The August inquisition moved right along to insurance issues, fire codes, inspections from the Food Bank, restriction of volunteer access to the building, pantry volunteers trying to identify who was breaking in the pantry and stealing food.
“We spoke with our insurance agent and you need liability insurance with the church co-named. We need a policy in our hands by Monday.”
“This is Thursday afternoon. It’s 4:00 and our meeting isn’t even over yet. How can we do this by Monday?”
“Well, you better do it or your pantry is out of the building. I realize this is problematic for you but we spoke with our insurance agent and this is what we need.”
“We need a fire inspection of the building. We want to make sure your volunteers aren’t breaking any rules in the pantry. Your tables, chairs, and all those people in the hallway are a fire hazard. All those cans and boxes and all that produce might be a fire hazard.”
“There are far too many chairs in the hallway. We don’t want more than three or four chairs in the hallway. Right now you have the hallway lined with chairs for the shoppers. This is a safety hazard.”
We want to know when anyone is in the building. Anytime a Food Bank person is in the pantry, we need to know about it. We want to see copies of all of your inspection reports.”
“I’ll be happy to show you the inspection reports except that I’m not permitted to. The Food Bank considers that information to be confidential. Actually, I’m very proud of those reports. I get the highest score possible on all the inspections.” I used this moment to proudly describe the details of every inspection we’d had, including the surprise visit from the USDA. I was then, and still am, very proud of how our inspections went. I always got top grades.
“We saw a police car outside the pantry yesterday. It wasn’t even pantry hours. What’re you doing?” Jabbs’ voice was raised.
“We’re trying to find out who’s been stealing food from the pantry and the storeroom while the pantry is closed.”
“How dare you call the police! You have no authority to call the police! This building is ours! We decide who calls the police!”
“Well, we have to find out who’s been stealing food. Someone is coming into the pantry and stealing food.”
“No you don’t! If we see a police car here again, you’re outta here!”
For months I had noticed food disappearing from the pantry when it was closed. I tracked the disappearances. Most of the time someone was coming in and getting a can or jar or two. Then, things escalated a bit. One Tuesday, I came in the pantry to find nine cans of green beans missing. Another time I came in to find several jars of peanut butter missing. The culprit had a sense of humor. An empty jar of peanut butter was left as a calling card.
The final issue was the restriction of hours and volunteers. We were told to have fewer volunteers during pantry hours and to be in the pantry only during certain times on specific days.
We never brought up the subject of the food thefts again. We felt if we did that the pantry would be shut down because the only way a person could get into the building, then into the pantry, and remove food repeatedly without damaging the doors, and locks, was by having a key. That made the thefts an inside job. The building committee members all had keys to the pantry rooms.
Our accusations were too close for comfort.
The agreement that resulted from these meetings brought many changes:
Tuesdays we were allowed in the building from 9:00 a.m. until noon to stock shelves.
Tuesday afternoons were available to selected volunteers to prepare take out bags.
On Wednesday mornings, we could bring in produce from 11:30 to 12:30. We then had to vacate the building until 3:00 p.m. when we could reenter to operate the pantry until 7:00.
Thursdays we were in the building from 2:00 p.m. until the pantry closed at 5:00. We were required to be out of both the building and the parking lot by 6:30 p.m.
On Fridays I was allowed to bring in a small shipment of canned/boxed goods at some point between 4:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. for no more than thirty minutes. I was not allowed to put any products on the shelves.
No food was allowed to be distributed from the hallway on pantry days.
No more than three chairs were allowed in the hallway.
Our shoppers were not allowed to use the handicap restroom.
On one was allowed to lean on or touch the walls.
No one was allowed to sit on or go up or down the foyer stairs. No one was allowed in the foyer at all except to walk through to the hallway.
Nothing was allowed in the entrance foyer or on the stairs.
We had permission to use the length of the hallway. We weren’t allowed to use the hallway from the point it turned toward the remainder of the church.
Church member volunteers were in the building when we were allowed to operate the pantry. They watched activities making sure we didn’t break rules. Some watchers were discreet. Others were obvious, in our faces. One walked up and down the hall, the parking lot and the entrance yard taking photographs and continually talking on the phone to others relaying all of the things we were doing. I was always protective of the shoppers where photographs were concerned but when this happened, I simply did nothing. The situation was too confrontational.
Anyone using the church bathroom (not the handicap bathroom) was to be supervised by a pantry volunteer.
Any pantry inspections required prior notification to the building committee.
The building committee wanted copies of all our paperwork. The building committee wanted to know about every grant received.
I was allowed to store records in the storeroom but not allowed to have an office or perform any administrative functions.
It was good the meetings ended when they did because in July I was a totally upset sweet little old lady trying very hard to do what the Food Bank and the HPNAP people wanted. By September I was eating nails. My attitude was that I would continue to do what the Food Bank and HPNAP wanted and would not provoke the building committee. I followed their rules and promised myself that when “the fat lady sings”, so would I.
I had returned to my Texas roots. My motto was this: “I don’t start the fight but I’ll damn sure finish it.” My family came from very tough stock. We were some of the first settlers in America and then in Texas. My Grandmother was a Deputy Sheriff in Edwards County, Texas, and my father was an attorney who used the word “ethical” everytime he used the word “legal”.
I emerged from the Inquisitions with a mission statement: to inform people about hunger in America by writing about food pantries in articles, a blog, and books. I would produce a TV show on public access TV and put the material on You Tube.
2011 was the pivotal year.
Thank you for reading this blog/book
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Peace and food for all.
Thurman Greco

In the Parking Lot of the Woodstock Reformed Church

“It’s one thing to wish for things to be different in your life, and it’s something else to have the capacity to create the life you want.” – Sister Mohini
Every week more people came to the pantry for food than the week before. This phenomenon had been going on for months…years; ever since the fall of the economy in 2008. Some weeks we’d get ten new families.
And, of course, they all became regular shoppers.
“We’ve got to do something>” I said to Guy Oddo one afternoon.
“Yup” he aid “the parking lot’s dangerous. There’s going to be a wreck out there one of these days.”
Actually, there was. Someone ran into my car about two weeks ago. “Do you have any suggestions?”
“Well, how about we put a volunteer in the parking lot to direct traffic.?”
“What if we limit the shopping time in the pantry?”
“Can we make some of these people park in the town lot down the street?”
So, we did all three things. Guy stood in the parking lot with maps to other parking lots in town. He distributed the maps while directing traffic. And, we further limited the shopping time in the pantry.
They kept coming, the new families. They needed the food.
not rain,
not sleet,
not snow,
not 100-degree afternoons,
not a totally packed parking lot,
not insults from pantry deniers stopped them.
Thank you for reading this blog/book.
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Peace and food for all.
Thurman Greco

What About the Pantry Line? Well…What About it? Info for the New Shopper

Food pantries are all about lines. Unless the food pantry you visit is brand new and nobody knows about it yet, the chances are you’re going to stand in a line. Maybe for only a few moments…maybe for an hour or more.
Don’t fret. This is your time to look, listen, and learn.
How long has the person in front of you been coming to the pantry? What advice does this person have for you?
People in lines have a tendency to speak about what’s going on in their lives. You, as a new pantry shopper can learn a lot by just listening and asking questions.
Are you going through a a foreclosure, for example? With luck, you’ll meet a person who’s walked down this street and who is willing to share his/her story. You may learn some helpful information.
Are you trying to get registered for SNAP? You’ll find tips from people in this line?
Perhaps you need your car fixed and don’t have the money for the expensive dealership repairs. The pantry line is a good place to network for names of two or three people who fix autos for less.
You will meet many, many kinds of people in the pantry line and the tendency the first two or three visits is to feel like you’ll never fit in here…and also to feel like you don’t want to ever fit in.
That’s a totally appropriate feeling. But, one of the big things happening at a pantry is meeting all kinds of people. I, personally, feel like it’s an important part of the journey.
Ideally, a pantry line is a safe space. It’s an opportunity to feel unafraid and to feel as if you are part of a community…which you are.
Thank God for the opportunity to meet the people and be a part of this community. The pantry line offers you an opportunity to enrich your life.
Thank you for reading this blog/book.
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Peace and food for all.
Thurman Greco

Pets of the Good Neighbor Food Pantry in Woodstock, New York

“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.” – Anatole France
One of the most tragic things I witnessed in the pantry was a person giving up a pet because s/he could no longer feed it.
The second most tragic thing I witnessed in the pantry was a person getting food in the pantry for the pet when there was no pet food available. First would come the hopeful question: “Is there any pet food today?” When the answer was “no.”, the person simply went to “Plan B” and take all the allowed items that could possibly be fed to a dog: cereal, bread, canned stews and meats, dried or liquid milk, green beans, carrots, potatoes.
As the economy tanked, people began to give up their pets when they could no longer buy food, grooming, and veterinary visits.
“Hi Thurman. Brian Shapiro here. How are you today?”
“I’m fine Brian. What can I do for you?”
“It’s not what you can do for me Thurman. It’s what I can do for you. Can you use a carload of pet food?”
“Brian, my shoppers are always looking for ways to get food for their pets. Can I send Barry over today? What’s a good time for you?”
Brian and I had this conversation several times over a span of time when shelters everywhere were overwhelmed with dogs. He called from the SPCA in Kingston. The theory was that if they could keep pet food available to the people, then they could prevent the shelter from being overloaded. This helped.
For several months we had a steady supply of food for our pantry dogs and cats. However, all was not well received with the building committee and after awhile we were forbidden to carry any food which was not for humans.
I was never comfortable stocking pet food after that. One winter I stocked cat litter claiming that it could be used for icy sidewalks and driveways.
We had many wonderful pets in our lineup at the pantry. Some of them accompanied their owners to shop at the pantry weekly.
Dianne Dunne had a large black Labrador retriever, Bear, who went with her everywhere. When she came into the pantry, he placidly stayed in the car. In the summer the windows were rolled down and he never jumped out.
Morningstar Raindance always traveled with an energetic short haired chihuahua. She tied Unity to the fence outside the entrance of the pantry. He patiently waited for her while she shopped. When it was cold, she dressed him in a little brown coat.
Cowboy had a very large shorthaired hound mix whom he totally adored. Helena went everywhere with Cowboy. She stayed outside in the yard when he shopped. One of Cowboy’s girlfriends made Helena a coat which she wore in the cold weather.
Diana had an Alaskan Malamute with one blue eye and one silver eye. She had disabilities and Whitey went with her everywhere. This created a bit of stress for us because of the health issues but she and Whitey always made it into the pantry. Diana was a beautiful young woman who definitely needed assistance. Guy Oddo was always on hand to help her read the labels on the cans/boxes, put items into her bags, and carry them to her car…which Diana then drove away. While all of this was happening, Whitey stuck to her like glue – protecting and guiding her.
Father Woodstock and Lady Esther came to the pantry weekly with Hector, their little Lhasa Apso mix. Hector rode in the colorful cart Father Woodstock used when he brought Lady Esther to shop. Father Woodstock and Lady Esther both wore beautiful dresses made of floral silk prints. The color emphasis was red. They dressed up their ensembles with silk kimonos. When they didn’t wear kimonos, they liked ornate silk jackets. They liked long skirts. They both also liked Teva sandals. Both of them painted their toenails. And, of course, both of them had long silver hair and beards.
“Father Woodstock is coming!” announced their runner every time they were on their way to the pantry. He served as the town herald.
Sure enough, within five minutes, Father Woodstock, Lady Esther, and Hector arrived. Father Woodstock always parked the cart at the entrance under the shade of a tree so Hector wouldn’t get overheated.
While Hector waited outside in the cart, Father Woodstock and Lady Esther came in, signed in the register, and shopped. Father Woodstock always told the women how beautiful they are as he tooted a little bicycle horn attached to his walking stick for emphasis.
The Sisters came weekly in a SUV with all their children, one of the women’s husbands, and a little lhasa apso mix, Pokey. The Sisters, between them, had nine children. Everyone patiently waited while they shopped. With a household that large, the amounts of food which went went out to the car were enormous. They carried away cases of USDA, armloads of bread, and anything else they could get that was edible. Even with so many people in the household, they only got one roll of toilet paper and one other item of dignity.
While all this was happening, Brandy, who lived next door in the Woodstock B&B on the Green, was out in the B&B garden greeting the many shoppers. Brandy, herself, was always perfectly groomed and behaved. People liked having Brandy in the garden while they were waiting to get into the building. She was a little bit of a distraction.
She was also a strong grounding influence, something badly needed when the weather was extreme and the lines long.
Thank you for reading this blog/book.
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Peace and food for all.
Thurman Greco


“There’s a difference between criminals and crooks. Crooks steal. Criminals blow some guy’s brains out. I’m a crook.” – Ronald Biggs
“If a day comes when we don’t have any volunteers, all we have to do is put a nail in the wall and hang up the key. The shoppers will let themselves in the pantry, shop, and lock the door behind them.”
I always take pride in saying the Good Neighbor Food Pantry didn’t even need volunteers.
Of course, this was an exaggeration. But it applied to many of our regular shoppers who knew the rules, knew how much food they were allowed to take, and respected the system. It did not, however, apply to all of the shoppers nor did it apply to all the volunteers. We had several shoppers and volunteers who simply could not live with the three-day supply of food rule.
Pantries, by their nature, are overrun with rules. They are layered with rules. The rules have rules. There are more rules than cans of food in food pantries.
First, the Food Bank has rules: what kind of food we can serve and to whom, what the pantry should look like and how clean it should be, who gets the food.
Shelving is to be six inches away from the walls.
The bottom shelf of each unit is to be six inches off the floor.
The USDA food must be displayed.
Pantry volunteers receive safe food handling training at least once every five years.
The pantry has to comply with food safety standards.
Pantries are not allowed to barter food with other agencies.
Pantries are not allowed to give food to other agencies.
All the food is to be distributed to specifically designated needy persons.
The Hunger Prevention Nutrition Assistance Program has a whole other selection of rules, guidelines focusing on how much food we should serve and what its nutritional value should be.
Pantries are expected to offer fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grain breads, and proteins.
Pantries are expected to support the MyPlate guideline on food selection.
Pantries are expected to serve the shoppers with dignity.
Pantries are required to serve a minimum of a three-day supply of food to recipients.
Pantries may never discriminate against anyone in the provision of service to the hungry.
And, of course, in the Good Neighbor Food Pantry, the building committee was not to be outdone by anyone else. The building committee had its own list of rules:
The building committee was concerned with the hours we could be in the building.
The building committee was concerned with which days of the week we could be in the building.
The building committee was concerned with how many chairs could be in the hallway.
The building committee was concerned about what products we could have in the hallway.
The building committee was concerned with when and where we could be in the parking lot.
The building committee was concerned with when the produce could come into the building and how long it could stay.
The building committee was concerned with the cardboard.
Finally, the rabbis, pastors, and priests of the Woodstock Interfaith Council liked to chime in when I got too enthusiastic and raised to much money or fed too many people.
The important thing was to refrain from serving the unworthy hungry.
I divided the whole crowd into four groups. The first group I jokingly referred to as the Hot Doggers. These people liked to make the rules whether or not they had the authority. And, if they didn’t have the authority to make the rules, who cared? “Scream loud enough and you’ll be heard” seemed to be the motto.
The second group I sadly referred to as the followers. These were the shoppers and volunteers who had trouble dealing with the layers and layers of rules. At one point in the timeline of the pantry, (leading up to and during the Inquisition), people asked each other “what are today’s rules” as the building committee grappled with how many chairs we could have in the hallway for the shoppers, whether or not we could offer food in the hallway, and whether or we could offer diapers or pet food.
This group (the followers) was really in a bad place during some of the uncertain times in the pantry. They needed the food and they were voiceless. Absolutely no one cared what their needs were. It was hardest on those with mental and emotional issues.
One shopper summed it all up on several Wednesdays when she ran through the parking lot yelling “Thurman Greco is a fucking asshole!” at the top of her lungs.
And, finally, the third group was the onlookers. These were the people who lived in the community, lifted not one finger to help, and gave not one penny of support. Their claim to fame was their criticism of all the people who came to the pantry to shop or work and their criticism of everything that happened to the pantry even though they had never been to the place and knew nothing about what was going on.
It finally boiled down to respect. A fourth group was made up of shoppers and volunteers who didn’t care a whit about the rules, what was good for the pantry, what was expected of them, or anything else. All they knew was there was a lot of food finally coming through the place and they wanted it.
No matter what.
One such shopper was a beautiful young woman with two gorgeous daughters who had been coming to the pantry for years. She brought her children, as infants, with her every time she visited the pantry. The children became toddlers, then young children. The oldest daughter became ten. Gorgeous children. One day I realized she was teaching them to steal food.
She came into the crowded room with her two children who immediately scattered to different parts of the room and began to put food in the little bags. There was absolutely no way a person could follow what these three were doing. Final analysis required that an extra volunteer come into the already overcrowded room and supervise the children.
We had a cluster of shoppers who liked to come right at pantry closing time when we were distracted and under pressure with closing activities. Some came in the hope of taking extra produce home with them. Others came expecting to grab an extra can or two of some favorite product.
“You’re only allowed to take one can from that shelf, Sara.”
“Sorry. I forgot.”
One volunteer managed to squirrel away fifteen frozen pizzas.
One shopper, a young man with beautiful, shoulder length, auburn hair, tried to make off with ten bags of dried black beans.
“Put the beans back. We need to have enough bags for everyone. We won’t have enough if you guys take more than your share.”
No answer.
One volunteer brazenly went into the storeroom and carried out two large boxes of food she felt was owed to her simply because she was a volunteer.
“Dana, that food is for the take outs. You can’t take it.”
“Yes I can. I want it and you can’t stop me.”
“Dana, you can’t return here anymore.”
Then, we had one volunteer who went over to the items of dignity closet one afternoon and stuffed her pockets.
“Jean, what are you doing with all these items? We barely have enough to pass out to our shoppers.”
“These are for my friends.”
“Well, you can’t take them. Your friends aren’t signed in and we need these items for our registered shoppers. You know the rules. You’ve been working here a long time.”
One volunteer went around to area grocery stores and picked up foods for the Good Neighbor Food Pantry. Some of this food actually made it to the pantry. However, a portion of it was diverted to this volunteer’s friends and neighbors. The argument could be made that she distributed the food to people who needed it. That’s all well and good. However, she led the grocers to believe she was taking the food to the pantry to distribute to the hungry. She was being dishonest with the grocers who were entrusting the food to her. This reflected poorly on our pantry, I felt, as well as on all other pantries.
Finally, we had our mystery shoppers. Almost every week or two we came into the pantry to find that food had been removed from the shelves over the weekend. This was true in both the pantry and the storeroom.
Considering how many people went through the pantry, the thefts were very few.
As a pantry coordinator, I tried to convince everyone that the food on the shelves in a pantry is not there for the entertainment and amusement of disrespectful volunteers. Neither is it on the shelves for shoppers to take regardless of the rules.
Rather, the food belongs to the State of New York. It is only when it is put in one’s shopping bag after the person is signed in at the reception table that it becomes the property of the shopper.
The Food Bank and the Hunger Prevention Nutrition Assistance Program people had definite guidelines about how much food could be taken by both shoppers and volunteers alike. These rules were known by everyone.
Conclusion: Being a thief is a genetic trait.

A True Story Told Through the Eyes of a Small Town Food Pantry

Recent research shows that many children who do not have enough to eat wind up with diminished capacity to understand and learn. Children don’t have to be starving for this to happen. Even milk undernutrition – the kind most common among poor people in America – can do it.” – Carl Sagan
I feed the unworthy hungry. Week after week, month after month, year after year, they come to the pantry and I feed them.
I give each of them a three-day supply of food which they must make last for a full seven days.
Each month, it seems, the lines get longer. The storeroom gets fuller and fuller on food delivery day until it’s stuffed with so much food that we’re wondering if we can walk in the place. Before the next month’s shipment arrives, the room is empty.
Well, I’m just an out-of-control, stubborn old woman who won’t listen to anyone in the town. I just snub my nose at them and keep on going.
I hear them:
“Thurman, how can you serve food to her? Her son works and she has a car. She shouldn’t get food.”
“Thurman, that woman lives in Kingston. You gave food to a family from Shandaken last week. Our pantry should be for Woodstockers only.”
“Thurman, you are serving entirely too much food to these people. You can’t do this.”
“Thurman, why are you serving fresh fruits and vegetables in the pantry? You shouldn’t do this.”
“Thurman, you’ve begun to open the pantry in the afternoons. Our pantry shouldn’t be open in the afternoons.”
“Thurman, that person’s car is too nice. How can you give food to a person with a car like that?”
“Thurman, you can’t serve this food to these people. They’re going out of here with $70-$80 worth of fresh produce. This is wrong. I’m going to tell Pastor Sonja, Ed Jabbs, and Pastor Bode about this. I’m very close to Pastor Sonja and she’s not going to be happy. You’re feeding the unworthy hungry.”
“Thurman, you’re serving entirely too many people here”.
“Thurman, you’re serving all the wrong people.”
“Thurman, you shouldn’t feed this food to these people. If they’re hungry enough, they’ll eat anything.”
Well, what can I say? I serve them with pride. It’s an honor and a privilege to do this.
And also…I work for the Hunger Prevention Nutrition Assistance Program of New York State. The HPNAP people are my supervisors.
I was trained to serve a three-day supply of food to everyone according to the “Open to the Public” feeding program policy which includes all populations without regard to gender, race, color, ethnicity, age, nationality, citizenship, marital status, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, income, disability, or health status. We do not exclude any population group from receiving services upon first request or repeat visits to our pantry.
A three-day supply of food offers three meals a day for three days to everyone in the household. Each meal includes foods from three of the five food groups.
In all the years, through all the conflict, I was never, ever, able to convince anyone that I had a superior who outranked the building committee of the Woodstock Reformed Church, or the Christ Lutheran Church.
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Peace and food for all.
Thurman Greco

Food Pantry Blog – Ho Hum, Just Another Pantry Miracle in the Good Neighbor Food Pantry

“You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
Well, maybe you don’t believe in miracles. I do. I was in denial for the longest time. But, after a while, I had to face reality. There were simply too many coincidences.
One September pantry day 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.
Just then, as if someone had blown a whistle, a red haired woman drove up in a tan SUV filled with bags of food she had 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 week after Christmas to be exact, John Mower drove up with a trunk load of canned vegetables for the pantry in his car. What a gift! Our pantry was totally depleted in December. Then, the next pantry day, along came another trunk load. He finally quit after three trips to the pantry. He filled our 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. Food had been scarce and this week the take out area seemed to be empty. A large man suddenly walked in the door carrying a very large box filled with canned and boxed items. A Kingston fireman who grew up in the Woodstock area, he made Peggy promise not to tell 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 need, he singlehandedly provided all the food for fourteen homebound families that week. Our pantry has never heard from him since.
In the pantry hallway, we had an Items 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.
As luck would have it, Prasida needed a pair of winter boots. One Wednesday afternoon, I noticed a pair of new boots – in her size. They were hidden in a dark corner of a shelf. One of the volunteers took them off the shelf. “Prasida, can you wear these boots?” Prasida came over 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.” Ho Hum. Just another pantry miracle.
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 in 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, etc. 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.
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Peace and food for all.

Food Pantry Blog – Sue, Mary, and the Seniors Apartment Complex

Sue was a slender, older woman with long gray hair which she wore in an attractive up-do. Sue was a Wednesday afternoon regular. She lived in the Shady area about two miles off 212 on a side road.
So, every Wednesday she walked the two miles to 212 and then hitch hiked the remainder of the way into Woodstock. She left her home in the morning on Wednesdays to get to the pantry on time.
Her shopping selections were always careful because she could only carry so much going home. This translated to small, light weight items: protein bars, one or 2 canned items, packaged dates, Ramen soup, dried milk, pasta.
Then, as dark approached in the winter, she would take her few packages and head back home – hoping, praying for a ride.
There was a seniors’ apartment complex in the forest off Route 28 which we visited weekly. It was a beautiful facility but, boy…what a location. These people, all nineteen households of them, were really isolated from a community. There was no sidewalk to anywhere. And, not everyone had a car (or could even drive anymore, for that matter.) There was a post office about a mile down the road on Route 213. There was also a small Methodist Church near the post office. Boiceville, the nearest town sported an IGA and a pharmacy. These two stores were several miles from the apartments, clear on the other side of the reservoir.
We drove out to the apartments every Thursday afternoon after the pantry closed with fresh produce, canned goods, and some kind of something that we could label “special treat” (although, many times that label was a real stretch.)
I received a call one December 26th from a resident. Judith, one of the residents realized late on the 24th that Mary, her neighbor who no longer drives, was completely out of food. So, Mary went around to her neighbors and also dug in her cabinets for food. She put together a food package for Mary composed entirely of canned and boxed goods which had been brought to the complex and distributed in the weeks before Christmas.
“Thurman, I’m calling to thank you and your team for coming every week to bring food to us out here. It was such a relief to be able to get food together on Christmas Eve to give to Mary. Imagine being out of food at Christmas! Your trips out here mean so much to us. Our nutrition has improved so much in this last year..”
This story on the surface, has a profound meaning. But, the spiritual aspect goes even deeper when we realize that the lady calling me is wheel chair bound. Getting that food for Mary was a real challenge for her, I feel.
And, actually, Mary’s story is not unusual. As people age, they sometimes have difficulty carrying on daily life tasks that younger people take for granted. And, the older person is afraid to reveal the problems to others because s/he is afraid that a move to a nursing home is eminent.
So, the person suffers in silence.
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Peace and food for all.
Thurman Greco

Food Pantry Blog – Peggy’s Take Outs – Guy, Rich, Jamie, Prasida, Father Nicholas, the Anderson Crew

Peggy organized delivery teams. Guy Oddo delivered food to four clients. Rich and Jamie Allen had a delivery. Prasida Kay had three deliveries. Laura Rose had two deliveries. Father Nicholas had three deliveries. The Anderson Crew had six deliveries.
Andrea from the Food Bank of the Hudson Valley came out one day and spent over two hours conferring with Peggy and answering all her questions.
Peggy had special food sources for her take out clients. Anyone who donated food to the pantry was donating to Peggy’s Take Outs. (So many people were using the pantry that only case lots were used in the pantry room itself.)
Peggy had absolutely no problem calling up a church and asking for food.
“Hello, this is Peggy Johnson. Can I talk with your pantry representative?”
“Hello, this is Peggy Johnson. We’re really short of toilet paper for our shoppers this month. Can your congregation get some toilet paper for our take outs?”
“Hello, this is Peggy Johnson. It’s your congregation’s month at the food pantry. Can you organize an Items of Dignity drive for the pantry? We really need toilet paper, tooth paste, and razors.”
Nothing stopped Peggy.
Not rain
Not sleet
Not snow
Not 100 degree afternoons
Not power outages.
On a couple of occasions when there wasn’t light in the storeroom, Peggy used a spelunker’s flashlight hooked to her head.
Every Tuesday morning, promptly at 9:01 a.m., Peggy walked into the Woodstock Reformed Church hallway and set up long tables along the wall on which would be placed donated food from the Hurley Ridge Market.
By 9:15 a.m., Barry Greco brought the food from Hurley Ridge Market over. There were usually six to ten boxes in his Jeep: fresh vegetables, fruit, bread, and baked goods.
Peggy, Jamie, Prasida, Laura, Amy, Marvalene, and Leticia went to work immediately, working as fast and furiously as possible.  By 11:00, every bit of this food would be sorted in bags for delivery to homebound households.  The bags had to all be packed and loaded in cars by 11:30 for delivery because the fresh produce had to be removed from the building by noon.
Hallway tables were total chaos on Tuesday mornings.  The Take Out team was stationed in front of the tables packing bags with produce, bread, while the Anderson Crew, along with other volunteers, were moving up and down the halls with carts filled with cases of canned beans, cooking oil, mayonnaise, canned fruits, canned vegetables, crackers, cereal, pasta, etc.  Leticia worked quickly to get as much food into the pantry room as possible before the Anderson Team arrived but there was always food which still needed to be brought out by the team.
“Look out behind you Prasida!”
“Hey Jamie, here comes a cart!”
“Where are the oranges?  My client loves oranges.  I know I saw some earlier!”
Empty cardboard boxes piled up.  It took several volunteers working together to break them down.  Tony Cannistra, Marcos and Jonah from Anderson, Richard Allen, Guy Oddo, Dr. Tom Dallow, and everyone else we could get to do it, broke down boxes and then, finally loaded them into Vanessa.
The fact that there was never an accident with all the commotion in the hallway on Tuesday mornings proves there are guardian angels and they don’t sleep on the job.
By 1:00, we all changed hats.  The pantry shelf stockers in the morning became the afternoon take out crew and packed next Tuesday’s bags with cans and boxes.
Peggy supervised every item that went into these bags.  It was no easy task.
It didn’t matter to this crew.
This was a very cohesive, dedicated team of people who realized that if the food didn’t go out the recipients wouldn’t eat.
The food went out.
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Peace and food for all.
Thurman Greco