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.


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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Do you ever…? 10 questions to ask hungry friends, relatives, neighbors.


Do you ever run out of $$$ to buy the food to make a meal?

Do you ever eat less food than you need because you ran out of $$$ to buy the food?

Do you ever eat less food than you need because you can’t get the food?

Do you ever skip meals because you don’t have $$$ for food?

Do you ever skip meals because you can’t get the food?

Do you ever do without fresh/frozen fruits and vegetables because you don’t have $$$ to purchase these products?

Do you ever go to bed hungry?

Do you ever skip meals so that your children will have enough to eat?

Do your children ever eat less than they need because you don’t have enough to eat?

Do your children ever go to bed hungry?

Each week at the pantry, people line up to file through the tiny room in the shed.  Most of them come weekly…as they should.  That’s how they get the most food for the time invested.  They get a 3-day supply of food which must last a week.

They hold their heads high, chat with  neighbors in the line, put on the best face possible.  I see them week after week, trying to get  food they need at the pantry.  I cannot help but have questions.  I need to shift the focus from general to  specific, nothing more.   To me, each person is individual.  Each one has unique  needs.

As an agency of the Food Bank of Northeastern New York and the Hudson Valley, the volunteers of the Reservoir Food Pantry are trained to feed the hungry a 3-day supply of food to include fresh fruits and vegetables, proteins, whole wheat breads, dairy products.  We are extremely proud of the quality of food which we serve to our shoppers.

This 3-day-supply of food includes food for three meals on each of the three days.  Each meal needs to offer 3 of the 5 food groups.

We get this food from the Food Bank.  Grocers, food manufacturers, farmers generously donate it.  For the most part, it’s  diverted from the landfill.

In spite of the landfill diversion, the quality of this food is excellent.  Much of it, especially the fresh fruits and vegetables, is organic.  It is food that all of us who volunteer at the Reservoir Food Pantry are proud to offer.

We serve this food to:

Seniors whose social security is not enough to buy the food they need to eat.

Families whose  children need enough to eat so they can learn at school.

Seriously ill people whose income is focused on paying medical bills with no $$$ left for food.

Homeless people with no kitchens.

People living in food deserts who lack transportation to get to a first line grocery store/super market.

When I see these people each week, I cannot help but see that the numbers grow weekly.   I am always confronted with one final question:

Why, in our United States of America in the 21st century, are over 49,000,000 people not getting enough to eat?

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Peace and food for all.

Thurman Greco





Pantry HND 3

“What’s happened?” she asked with concern in her voice.

“What do you mean? ” I replied.

“What happened to the people?”

“Oh, that.  Well, it’s summer.”

What’s happened is that the faces are often different in the pantry in the summer.  When you’re living on the edge, when you’re a member of the Struggling Class, the change of seasons counts for a lot.

People who were too sick to make it to the pantry in cold are now able to make it out.  How they manage to make it through the winter is a question for me.  These shoppers barely get enough to eat as it is.  How do they eat over the winter?  Humans are not bears and don’t hibernate.  What do these disabled do to survive?

And, yet, we have many in this category.

Some can’t make it to the pantry in the winter because their vehicles aren’t winter worthy.  Beyond a certain temperature, the cars  just don’t work.  Then, as spring rolls around, they manage to get them running again to drive to the pantry during the warmer months.

Making it to the pantry in the winter is really difficult for the homeless.  Truthfully, I don’t know how some of these homeless live in  the winter.  How they keep from freezing to death seems to me to be a miracle.

We lose some shoppers also.  In the winter, men visit the pantry regularly because they don’t have work.  Then, as the weather gets warmer, they find jobs and can’t come to the pantry because they’re working when the pantry is open.

We always miss these guys because they are good volunteers and really make a contribution to the pantry during the cold months.

One staple which carries everyone through challenges is peanut butter.  Peanut butter is important to everyone in the Struggling Class.

It is important because it:

can be eaten right out of the jar.

needs no refrigeration.

has a long shelf life.

is not necessary to have teeth in order to eat it.

does not have to be combined with another food in order to be palatable.

is nutritious.

does not usually come in a container requiring a can opener.

is not necessary to cook it.

The only hitch to this whole wonderful story about peanut butter is that most of the time, there is no peanut butter in the food pantry.

The only time we are able to get peanut butter in our pantry is when we are having a peanut butter drive.  It’s been months since we’ve had a decent amount, or any amount, of peanut butter.

Can you help?

There are 2 ways you can come to our rescue:

Our pantry is open Mondays from 2 to 4 in the afternoon.  I’m usually there by 10:00 am.

On Tuesday mornings from 9:00 to 10:00 we are in the pantry packing the take out bags.

If you live/work in the area and want to bring some peanut butter to the pantry, we’re happy to receive it then.

If dropping the peanut butter off at the pantry is not convenient, we’ll be happy to accept your donation and purchase the peanut butter for the pantry.  Please send the check to:  Reservoir Food Pantry, P.O.Box 245, Boiceville, NY 12412.

We thank you in advance for this generosity.  Currently, we serve over 150 households each week.  Everyone needs peanut butter.

Peace and food for all.

Thurman Greco

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Grocery shopping is always a problem for the elderly.


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:



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



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.

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Peace and food for all.



Why I work in a pantry…even after all these years.

RT 28 at Boiceville
“This is perfect weather for a flood” she said casually. “It’s good to see the county out cleaning the ditches by the roads. We need to be ready.”
As I write this post, my mind travels back in time to the 1st pantry day after both Hurricane Irene and Super Storm Sandy. I managed a pantry in Woodstock, NY then. What pantry days they were! People came in looking for anything and everything they could find. They were upset, scared, coping with loss. Many had lost everything – car, house, job. They didn’t know where to turn.

Sadly, neither did I. As they filed in the pantry room, they asked questions that I couldn’t answer. So…I referred them to Family of Woodstock down the street. I simply didn’t know what else to do.

So, now I fast forward to the present where I manage a pantry in Boiceville, NY. Residents here are still recovering from Irene and Sandy. At this pantry, I see some of the same people I saw in Woodstock. Recovery is slow.

Reservoir Food Pantry volunteers work to assure that quality food is available for the many individuals and families in Ulster County. They struggle with food insecurity, homelessness, and underemployment. About 40% of our clients are transportation challenged and we deliver food to them.

Hunger comes in several categories in our area:
elderly poor
employed poor
ill poor
infant poor
generational poor
persistent poor
resource poor
situational poor
struggling poor

Regularly, without even a second thought, volunteers at our pantry located in the Ashokan Reservoir area of Upstate New York, work hand-in-glove with UlsterCorp volunteers, Rondout Valley Growers’ Association. Together, they make an an ongoing effort to provide enough food for those struggling daily with hunger.

Now, in 2015, area pantries are working to be a cohesive group with food storage and safety procedures known by everyone. We know, even if no one else does, how much the area hungry and homeless need the food. Hunger alleviation cannot be effectively carried out in a vacuum.

Our success depends on long term commitment and collaboration. We need to be able to escalate services when needed. Volunteers in our group are here for the time and effort necessary to fight hunger and homelessness in our area.
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Peace and food for all.

Thurman Greco

I Have a Question

“When I drive down Route 28 on Monday, I see a lot of cars at your pantry. I see many people. I have some food pantry questions. Are they from our area?”
My answer: “Yes, they are from our area.”
But, that’s not the right question and it’s certainly not the right answer. The correct answer is that we serve everyone who manages to make it to our pantry…no matter where they’re from.
In our country now, in the U. S. of A., we have people who are hungry. Many of these people work. Many hold down 2-3 minimum wage jobs. Even with these jobs, their minimum wage pay checks don’t have any $$$ for food. So, they come to a pantry for food.
They come to the pantry they can get to…not the one in their neighborhood. And, the reason for that makes a lot of sense. If they live off Route 28 but work in Cairo on Monday, they’ll never make it to the Boiceville pantry on Monday before it closes.
When I worked in the Good Neighbor Food Pantry in Woodstock, there was a volunteer who didn’t agree with this philosophy. A hungry man from Shandaken got a ride into Woodstock and stood in line for food.
The volunteer denied him food. He went away hungry. He came to Woodstock for food because he didn’t have a car and his ride brought him to Woodstock.
Pantries serve the people who can make it to their pantry. At Reservoir Food Pantry we also serve food to home bound households where the residents are transportation challenged.
It’s not where the hungry live that determines what pantry they use. It’s what pantry they can get to.
Food pantries and soup kitchens are our tax dollars at work. The government has decided the hungry should not starve to death. The government has chosen food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, and halfway houses as places for the hungry to get food.
We don’t ask the address of any of the hungry in our line. Nor do we care.
Our job is plain and simple: to feed the hungry.
For the most part, the food that we serve is food that was destined for the landfill. Most pantry volunteers are just that…unpaid workers concerned about our neighbors, relatives, friends who are not getting enough to eat.
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Are you working but having a hard time making ends meet? Check your eligibility for a range of benefits and apply for food assistance at:

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Peace and food for all.
Thurman Greco

An Open Letter to Susan Zimet

RT 28 at Boiceville
Dear Ms. Zimet:
Thank you for speaking at the Hunger Conference in Latham on April 11th. You, as well as the other speakers, know the subject well and obviously care about the hunger struggle that many of your constituents face every day.
Thank you for accepting the position of Executive Director of Hunger Action Network New York State. Your energy, intelligence, and savvy attitude will boost the ripple effect of this organization to a new level…something New York State needs.
Finally, thank you for your openness at the conference. When you spoke about young graduates moving in with their parents because they can’t get jobs to pay off their student loans, you were speaking openly about a situation which many are trying to keep quiet.
New found poverty is sometimes a subject which people don’t shout about because they’re embarrassed. The symptoms of this newly found situation are often covered up because the people experiencing it are asking themselves “Where did I go wrong? What did I not do that I should have done?”
I have a name for those in this situation, Ms. Zimet. I call them the Struggling Poor.
We’re experiencing the same phenomena in our part of Ulster County also. Over here in Boiceville, it’s manifesting itself in different ways:
Seniors who never, ever thought about food pantries are now finding themselves in the food pantry line on Monday afternoons at 2:00.
Working people are struggling to buy groceries. They, too, are meeting at the pantry on Mondays at 2:00 if a family members is off work at that time.
Food pantries in the past focused on shoppers in a specific geographic location. We now serve the people who can get to us. Some pantries in cities are open until midnight to serve those who get off work at 11:00 p.m.
And, pantries have our own struggle for food. At Reservoir Food Pantry, fresh vegetables are important. We scrounged $$$ and bought a long line van which volunteers drive weekly to Latham for as much produce as we can bring back. We routinely run out of this fresh food at the end of every pantry shift.
Our situation is precarious, Ms. Zimet. We joke that we’re teetering on homelessness ourselves because we’re in a shed on a food plain. The shed part is fine. We’re desperately trying to find a place to move it where we’re out of a flood plain. So far, we’ve had no luck. The Olive Flood Advisory Committee, Woight Engineering, and the Town Board are doing the best they can with what we all have. But, the writing is on the wall. So far, we’ve had no luck.
But, enough of our woes Ms. Zimet. Thank you for attending the conference. Thank you for speaking. Thank you, very much, for sharing your energy which seems to know no bounds.
If ever you’re in the Ashokan Reservoir area on a Monday afternoon, please visit our pantry. We’ll be honored and pleased give you a tour of our 12’x16’shed. If ever you need a human interest story, I have many to share. I’ve been working in a food pantry for almost 10 years.
Peace and food for all.
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Thurman Greco

9 Ways You Can Support the Reservoir Food Pantry

RFP-Tent (1)

We’re committed to feeding the hungry with dignity. We are committed to offering the hungry a safe haven while they shop for pantry food. At the Reservoir Food Pantry we feel a connection to all who pass through our doors. This is our way of offering peace and harmony to our community. And, your support is critical to our mission.
The need in our area is great. The pantry has been steadily growing since the day it opened in September, 2013. We are now the 9th largest pantry in Ulster County and our pantry is continuing to grow.
We cannot do this job alone. We need your help so we can help others.
SEND THE RESERVOIR FOOD PANTRY A FINANCIAL GIFT. Prasida and Francine drive to Latham every Monday morning and return to the pantry by 1:00 p.m. with a van filled with fresh produce. We need your financial support in order to keep the pantry running. Your contributions are tax deductible.
CONSIDER A MONTHLY SUSTAINING DONATION. A monthly check, or paypal payment in any amount will insure that we have a regular cash flow to meet our expenses.
PAY A PARTICULAR EXPENSE. Choose an amount, and send it to the food pantry to help pay for a specific expense. For example, $20 donated monthly to help pay the dumpster fees would be a wonderful gift for us.
SEND A GIFT CARD TO THE RESERVOIR FOOD PANTRY. If writing a check is more effort than you are comfortable with, send us a gift card. If you send us a gas gift card, or a Visa gift card, we can use the card to help meet our expenses. A CVS, Target, or Walmart gift card can be used for toilet paper.
HELP PAY FOR TOILET PAPER. Toilet paper is an item that many people have trouble buying because they lack the money. When you send us money monthly to apply to our toilet paper account, we’ll be able to purchase more toilet paper each month. We estimate that we need 200 rolls of toilet paper every week.
When you make a contribution as a gift to a friend or family member, we’ll send the honoree a personalized card acknowledging your donation. Send us the name and address of the honoree, along with your tax-deductible donation.
GIVE A GIFT TO THE RESERVOIR FOOD PANTRY: Gifts of peanut butter and jelly are important to the pantry. When you donate food to the pantry, it’s passed on to needy shoppers. We continually experience severe shortages of peanut butter. We need office supplies: pens, paper, envelopes, tablets, notebooks. Extra produce from your garden is needed. We always need fresh produce to distribute to the hungry.
FORWARD THIS APPEAL TO A FRIEND. Please share our story with your friends and neighbors.
KIND WISHES, PRAYERS, AND LOVING SUPPORT ARE ALWAYS WELCOME. Your positive attitude toward us is extremely important and cannot be overestimated.
Thank you for your support of Reservoir Food Pantry. You are important to us. We send blessings to you as we feed the many hungry in the area.
Reservoir Food Pantry is a 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation. Your gift is tax deductible.
Please send it to Reservoir Food Pantry – P.O.Box 245 – Boiceville, NY 12412
Thank you in advance for your generosity.
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Peace and food for all.
Thurman Greco

Something Every Pantry Needs

Igiene intima
“I’m happy to inform you that the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York received a grant from….to assist your program with its food needs. Your agency, Reservoir Food Pantry (2539f), has received….from this award! It is a pleasure to share this good news with you and to know those you serve will benefit from this gift.”
Immediately, I think about all the things I can get for the pantry with this gift:
toilet paper,
This $$$ will be put in our pantry account as a grant to help us get food and other supplies from the Food Bank. This grant is called an “Adopt-a-Program” grant, or AAP for short.
Once the gift is specified for us, the amount goes directly into our line of credit. And, this gift is worth so much more than the amount donated. At the Food Bank, the AAP funds are more valuable than if the $$$ were used at a supermarket. The Food Bank estimates the amount is 10 times more valuable. This grant is very important for getting items of dignity: toilet paper, tampons, razors.
These grants are very important because they free up other funds for pantry projects. With these grants we’ve had $$$ available for other projects in the past months. Because the struggle for food is lessened, volunteers have energy for other activities in the pantry.
We have a new, used, Chevy econoline van which makes food hauling tasks easier for Prasida and Francine.
We received 2 new 20 cubic food freezers which completely upgrade the way we feed the hungry in the pantry.
We’ve brought a grant writer volunteer on board. She’s attending classes, doing research, and has written 2 successful grant requests already.
THE TINY RESERVOIR FOOD PANTRY WAS RECENTLY RANKED THE 9TH LARGEST PANTRY IN ULSTER COUNTY. For me, this is nothing short of amazing. After all, we only opened in September, 2013.
IN SHORT, WE’RE GROWING, GROWING, AND GROWING. We need every dime you can spare.
You can participate in the Adopt-a-Program grants. You can deposit a gift into our AAP account 3 different ways.
One way is to call the Food Bank of Northeastern New York at 1-518-786-3691. When you tell the receptionist you want to make an AAP donation, please specify that you want the funds to be earmarked for the Reservoir Food Pantry #2539f.
You can also go to the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York website and donate there. Click on the “Donate Now” button to use the secure online donation form. There you can enter the donation, and direct it to our pantry. You can also, if you prefer, set up recurring donations which will be automatically charged to your account: monthly,
You can also mail a check to the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York, 965 Albany Shaker Road, Latham, NY, 12110. Again, please specify the Reservoir Food Pantry #2539f.
Thank you in advance for your generosity. Remember…your donation of $10 will purchase $100 worth of product for the food pantry.
Peace and food for all.
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Thurman Greco