Hunger Is Not a Disease

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

SNAP and Seniors: Many just don’t get it.

Please share this post with any and all seniors you may know.  Chances are they might be able to use the information…especially since 1 senior in 7 in our country doesn’t get enough to eat.   

Seniors are extremely reluctant to use SNAP, partly because of myths surrounding SNAP.

SNAP Myth #1:

Why apply for SNAP?  It’s not worth the hassle.  I may not even get much $$$.

SNAP Reality #1:

Most people get more than just a few dollars.  Some families receive over $100.  But, whatever you get – it all adds up,  Over time, you’re going to receive several hundred dollars annually.   This $ is yours.

Whether it’s $16 or $160 is not the issue here.  This is $$$ that you paid taxes with all these years.

Look at it this way:  If you get $16 in SNAP benefits, you can buy eggs, milk, bread, butter.  Every penny counts.

Whatever the amount, you are going to be eating better – staying healthier – and using tax dollars that you paid all these years.

SNAP Myth #2:

If I get SNAP, I’ll be taking away food benefits from others who may need them more such as young families with children.

SNAP Reality #2:

There are funds set aside for everyone who qualifies.  The funds are federal.  No one participating in the SNAP program will be taking away anything from anyone.  On the contrary, by using SNAP funds, you will be bringing dollars into your community.  You will be helping your town.

Many seniors qualify for SNAP and are not even aware of this benefit.

SNAP Myth #3:

I’ll have to have a face-to-face interview to get on the SNAP roster.

SNAP Reality #3:

Any senior who is ill, has transportation difficulties, has hardships due to living in a rural area, is experiencing prolonged severe weather,  or is under the care of another household member does not need to have a face-to-face interview.

In New York State, seniors can be interviewed by phone or with a scheduled home visit.

Basically, the issue here is trust.  Seniors sometimes do not trust the process and are afraid of it.  Filling out the application can be very challenging for those of us who have cognitive or physical limitations.

A further barrier is language.  Many seniors simply do not have the English language skills to apply for SNAP – and they know it.  There is another category here:  the senior who feels s/he lacks the skills and does not realize that there are professionals who speak the language who can help with the application process.


Hunger among seniors is at an epidemic level…especially in New York State.  SNAP offers access to a healthy diet which is extremely important for the overall health of seniors.

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Peace and food for all.

Thurman Greco

Abundance in the Food Pantry

Surrounded by abundance, poor people had trouble buying food that really nourished them. Fat was cheap and filling, vegetables were complicated and scarce, so salt, grease, and sugar reigned.” – Sara Miles

FOR ME, PANTRIES ARE ALL ABOUT ABUNDANCE. Abundance and gratitude. Churches see pantries as an outreach project. And, of course, outreach is a popular term.

Many congregations love to support feeding the hungry – especially if the funds go to feed a group of children in Botswana, Somalia, India. The farther away the better, it seems. It’s when the outreach is local that things get a little dicey.

FEEDING THE HUNGRY IN A FOOD PANTRY IS AN ACT OF GRATITUDE. When we feed people, we own up to the amazing abundance in and around us. We also face the fact that we are spiritually hungry. Feeding the hungry in a food pantry addresses this spiritual hunger issue head on. It also addresses the physical issue. Pantry shoppers and volunteers are both surrounded by abundance. There are millions of pounds of food available to pantries and soup kitchens throughout our fair land, all of it diverted from a landfill. There is absolutely no reason, no excuse, for anyone in the good old U S of A to go hungry.

Based on my experience in a food pantry since 2005, it’s my opinion that people having trouble with the spiritual issues begin to question who should get food and who shouldn’t get food. For some, feeding the “unworthy hungry” meant we were feeding freeloaders. But not all hungry people look needy. Some of the best dressed people in Woodstock never spend a dime on their clothes. For one thing, they have no money for clothes. For another, they shop in the free store closet at Family of Woodstock.

THE PANTRY HAD THREE SHOPPERS WHO ESPECIALLY DIDN’T LOOK THE PART. They were young women, with children, who drove late model SUVs. I don’t know if they knew each other but their stories were similar. Two of them had been married to men with influential employment and money. Neither one of them received one dime from the husband in the separation process.

The younger one had one son and couldn’t work because her husband seriously injured her when he threw her against a wall. Her recovery was slow. She always came with her eight-year-old son. I got the feeling they went everywhere together.
I noticed right away that she chose items from shelves where bending was not necessary. That left out many items but she wanted to be as independent as possible.

Another woman, Elizabeth, was a little older. She had a house full of children including a set of twins. She just couldn’t get it together to work. And, I doubt if she could have gotten employment in our area anyway. This lovely lady had a Ph.D. There weren’t many jobs available in her career field. And, of course, once a woman gets an advanced degree, the lower level jobs are just not open to her unless she hides the education. Sometimes education can be hidden. Sometimes it can’t. It all depends on the situation. The main thing is to get rid of it on the resume.

Elizabeth was very open minded about the food she selected. With five children, she basically took anything that wasn’t tied down. She qualified for cases of USDA. So, Elizabeth left the pantry with a case of pasta sauce, canned corn, green beans, vegetarian beans, refries, etc. Her kids ate everything. When she finished shopping, Robert Allen, our youngest volunteer, always brought out the cart to put her groceries on and wheeled them to her car.

The third person was in a slightly different situation. She was a volunteer in our pantry with a degree, a house, two adorable daughters, and a spouse with a job somewhere in Europe. The spouse decided he wanted nothing more to do with either her or the children. No money was coming across the ocean for her and the two children.

Laura was very happy to take the vegetarian items available each week. Her children loved fresh vegetables so there was much to choose from. Laura’s girls also looked forward to yogurt as a treat.

SO…HERE WE HAVE THREE FAMILIES with no money for food, (or much of anything else for that matter.)
So…here we have three households, single-headed households in need of food. If not for a couple of years, then at least for several months.
So…where were the fathers in all this? Not paying the child support, that’s for sure.

NONE OF THESE HOUSEHOLDS IS HOMELESS ALTHOUGH they might be when the tax collector comes to call.
None of these households is in rags although they might be when the clothes wear out.
None of these households is without transportation although they might be when/if the vehicle needs expensive repairs.
None of these household members look the part.


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Peace and food for all.
Thurman Greco

They Named Me Miriam’s Well


But, that’s not the beginning of the story. My story began in 1996 when Ford manufactured me and sold me to U-Haul. I worked for fourteen years hauling people’s belongings and treasured possessions around the country. I moved people across town and across the nation. What a life. For the most part, everyone was stressed out and worried their things were going to break or their checks would bounce or that the credit card wouldn’t work.
I did my best. I broke down very few times and quietly endured a lot of abuse from overstressed human clients and rental employees.
Finally, in 2012, I was retired. The mechanics refitted me with a new transmission, brakes, tires, etc., and put me on the lot in Kingston, New York, to sell. I sat out on the lot, dejected, rejected, and lonely over the winter.
Then, one day, some men from Woodstock, New York, showed up. What a crew. They stood around, looked me over from stem to stern, asked a lot of questions, and bought me.
But, not before lots of talk and some serious haggling. Three men and two of them named Richard! Can you imagine that? With ALL the names in the world, two of them were named Richard. Guy was the third one. They talked a lot and they touched everything and checked everything. I fell in love with them immediately. They got the price down and I was very excited for them. They were working for me. After months of loneliness on the lot at the rental store, I began to feel useful again…and wanted…and needed.
Sure enough, one day they returned. Richard Allen did most of the talking. They paid the price and off we went. Then, of course, the transmission started acting up and back we went. A lot of haggling continued and finally the Ford people fixed the problem and I was driven over to St. John’s Roman Catholic Church where a special parking place was made just for me. Imagine that!
Then, those three men really got to work. Rich and Rich and Guy did all the paperwork for the insurance, the registration papers, the permits, and everything else anyone could imagine.
And, finally, Rich Spool took me over to Upstate Signs and negotiated with Chester for my sign and now I’m the most beautiful truck in the whole world. Well, maybe not the most beautiful truck in the whole world but there’s a woman that they talk about sometimes and SHE thinks I’m the most beautiful truck in the whole world. Whenever Thurman looks at me, she gets all choked up.
Anyway, soon after we got the sign, a bunch of people came and got trained. Imagine that. Imagine getting trained to drive a U-Haul truck. For over ten years people drove me every day and nobody, absolutely nobody got trained to drive me at all. Now, they all have to have a drivers license, and special insurance, and a training class. Richard Allen does the training. He’s got a fancy title for all the things that he’s doing for me and for the things we do with me. He’s the Truck Master.
Guy Oddo is in charge of keeping track of everybody. He’s also got a title. He’s a Route Master. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
I’m so proud. I’m going out on the road almost every day. But, I’m not carrying furniture and stuff anymore. And the people who ride in my cab and come by to visit when we’re parked are definitely not stressed out.
Now, Rich Allen gets a couple of other people every day and off we go for food. We go to Albany every Wednesday and return to Woodstock completely loaded with food for our local food pantry. Occasionally, when we go to Albany, they get so much food I have to stretch my body to hold it all. Sometimes the truck crew notices and sometimes they don’t. When they notice, they whisper that it’s magic. Well, call it what you want. I’m doing everything I can to help keep the people fed.
Once a month we go over to Kingston to bring back food from the Food Bank monthly shipment. Rich Allen has a special crew and I really have to stretch my sides for this one trip. The Food Bank offloads over 10,000 pounds of food each month and there are several other cars and trucks joining in. I’m so proud to be a part of this pantry. And, of course, all the food gets packed up and goes to the pantry. And, when we get to Woodstock, Thurman is there waiting for the food and she gets all excited. It’s a beautiful day when the food comes over from the Food Bank.
Twice weekly we deliver food to area families and households. We park in each location about an hour. We offer a three-day supply of food to the people who come over to us. But…that’s not all we do.
What we really do is offer a community experience which is completely unavailable in a pantry housed in a building. When we drive up, there’s no shame or embarrassment, no need to hide. Instead, people gather for a few moments in communal conversation and connect with their neighbors. The feelings of isolation so prevalent in a pantry are completely absent.
We’re hoping to offer this experience at other locations in the area.
I’m the happiest truck in the whole wide world. I love my new name which comes from an Old Testament story. And, frankly, I’m hoping they start looking for another truck for us soon. I hope they name her Goddess.
Peace and food for all.T
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Thurman Greco

Support a Homeless Friendly Pantry

“In a land of great wealth, families must not live in hopeless poverty. In a land rich in harvest, children just must not go hungry.” – Lyndon B. Johnson
So, what is a homeless-friendly pantry? What makes a pantry homeless friendly, anyway? And, how can I support such a pantry?
For starters, a homeless friendly pantry doesn’t require discriminatory identification. Homeless people living in their cars or on the porch of an unoccupied home, or in an abandoned building cannot offer proof of address. Nor should they be asked to. A shopper’s address does not belong on the list of needed information.
A homeless-friendly pantry stocks foods which homeless people can eat. Those foods include fruits and vegetables which can be eaten raw. Canned goods for homeless people have pop tops which don’t need can openers.
A homeless friendly pantry offers salads in containers that homeless people can eat out of. Salad dressings are best in small packages or containers.
Individual containers of yogurt, cottage cheese, are good choices along with small containers of milk, juice, and packages of cheese.
Peanut butter, jelly, crackers, and bread are essential. Protein bars and cereal bars should be available at all times.
A homeless-friendly pantry offers at least five items of canned/boxed/bagged food per person to a household.
A homeless-friendly pantry offers 50% fresh produce to its shoppers. Produce which can be eaten raw such as carrots, cherries, lettuce, celery, sweet peppers, is very important to the health of a homeless person to have access to fresh fruits and vegetables.
The most important thing a homeless-sensitive pantry offers is a respect for all shoppers regardless of their living conditions, their health issues, and their disabilities.
The best way to support a homeless-friendly pantry is by sending money and donating food.
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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.
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Peace and food for all.
Thurman Greco

What, Exactly, Can I Get With a Food Stamp Card (SNAP)?

Hunger is not an issue of charity. It is an issue of justice.” – Jacques Diouf
This post is dedicated to anyone whose money is just not going as far as
it used to go.
This post is dedicated to anyone who has more month than money.
Are you getting food stamps?
If the answer to this question is “no”, please read further to figure out how to get a SNAP card.
Please don’t be embarrassed or shocked by this. People just like you and me are receiving and using SNAP everyday. They use SNAP to help make ends meet while buying nutritious food. This is the new way we live in the 21st century.
Many people over 60 years of age are having trouble finding money for food…every month. When seniors don’t get enough to eat, they eventually get sick. When this happens, a burden is placed on children and grand children.
I, for one, don’t want this to happen to me and I’m sure you feel the same way.
We’ve all worked for many years and paid our taxes dutifully. Now that we’re retired, our incomes are fixed but our expenses are not. Now is our chance to receive some benefits.
Here is what will happen if you apply for food stamps (SNAP). If you hit the jackpot, you’ll get enough funds each month loaded onto a debit card which you can use to purchase all the food you and your household members need.
If you win less and don’t really get the jackpot, you’ll get something. Either way, you’ll get more food than you had before you applied.
And, when you use SNAP you may save enough money to have a little cash in your wallet that you didn’t have before.
If you apply for benefits and are denied, please find out why. You may have mistakenly answered a question incorrectly.
Food Stamp funds come in a debit card which can be used at a grocery store, gas station convenience store, farmers market or other food outlet. With this little card you can purchase fruits, vegetables, meats, fish, dairy products, bread, cereal. You can purchase food that is fresh, frozen, or canned.
What you cannot purchase is inedible products such as toilet paper, soaps, tooth paste. You are also prohibited from purchasing restaurant food. You cannot purchase foods or meals prepared for in store dining. Beer, liquor, wine, and tobacco are prohibited.
It does take some effort to get this card. You need to apply for it. A form needs to be filled out.
You’ll be asked to give your name, address, date of birth, social security number, the names and ages of people who live with you, your total household income and your monthly expenses.
If you are asked to provide any documents, please only use copies. You keep the original documents in your own files.
SNAP uses your income, shelter costs and medical expenses to determine your benefit amount.
You can apply for SNAP benefits by mail, fax, or in person at your local Department of Social Services office.
If you live in New York State, call 1-800-342-3009 for the address of the office nearest you.
If you want, you can have another person apply for you. An interview is required, but you can have a telephone interview if you cannot go to the office.
You may qualify for SNAP even if you work, receive Social Security, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and/or retirement benefits.
You can apply for SNAP even if you own a house or car, have money in the bank, or live with other people.
If you know someone who might be able to benefit from having a SNAP card, please share this information with them. Statistics tell us that one senior in seven doesn’t have enough to eat.
There is no excuse for anyone in our beautiful nation to go hungry.
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Peace and food for all.
Thurman Greco