Hunger Is Not a Disease

Miracles – Because Hunger is Not a Disease

Miracles happened in the food pantry.  It took me a while to realize this and then it took another while to accept that such a thing could happen in the basement of a small town church in Upstate New York.

I sneaked miracle stories in on the blog posts.  I sneaked them on the pages of   “I Don’t Hang Out in Churches Anymore”.  Finally, I gave them their own pages – as much as I had the nerve for anyway,  in a short book “Miracles”.

Research on miracles taught me some things.

I learned that miracles often include weeping statues, broken legs healing  straight,  relics, stigmata, and visions.  The pantry miracles included none of those things.

Our miracles never really cured anyone.  I never saw a statue weep, and no one came down with stigmata.

Instead, they  showed us all how to grow and love and forgive.  It was giving away the food that was the tip off for me.

As far as I can tell, the food pantry miracles were not the result of prayer.

God just showed up and brought food.  Once he came disguised as a fireman.  Each miracle was a complete surprise, a unique and different event.  God came when the pantry shelves were bare and the lines were long.

I don’t think the miracles proved that any of the shoppers or volunteers were more  faithful than anybody else in town.   Frankly, I think that some of us saw the miracles as coincidences or something.

However they were seen, these events made an impact on a small number of people who saw them as they happened.

The clincher for me occurred when I finally realized and accepted a few basic things:

Carloads of food never showed up when we didn’t need it.

Boots never appeared on the shelves disguised as toothpaste in the summertime.

Nobody ever brought a handful of nails to fix the barn when the wall wasn’t falling.

Two books appeared on my desk out of the ethers:  “Miracles” by Tim Stafford and “Looking for a Miracle” by Joe Nickell gave a feeling of legitimacy to my thoughts and memories.

Because of Tim Stafford,  I wrote my book entitled “Miracles”.    He was direct about a few things – one of them being that people should not spread “miracle gossip”.  Because of his feelings about what he called “miracle gossip”,  I’m compelled to relate the pantry miracle stories.

To sneak them in  blog posts  does not do them justice.

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Thurman Greco


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

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

An Open Letter to Konrad Ryushin Marchaj

It seems only yesterday that we sent you an appeal for support.  We were a band of 4 people who barely knew each other, embarked on an adventure.  None of us mentioned it, not even to each other…but you were our only hope.

We were processing a 501c3 to open the Reservoir Food Pantry.  And, until it came through, we needed a sponsor willing to share theirs.  So, you got the letter, and invited us to lunch at Zen Mountain Monastery so we could meet and make our appeal.

We begged, really, but you never let on.  We went away that afternoon energized by your openness, professionalism, interest, concern.  Eventually you did what you did and we received the support from your group.

You gave us a raft on which we floated until we got our own 501c3 and gained acceptance with the Food Bank.

So, today, as a result of your efforts, there is now a pantry on Route 28 in the Ashokan Reservoir area of Ulster County in Upstate New York serving over 125 households every Monday afternoon.  The volunteers at this pantry look forward to serving the hungry for many years to come.

In conclusion:  Thank you Konrad Ryushin Marchaj for all you have done for yourself and your fellow man.  I saw you change the world around you for the better.  That counts for a lot in my book.

I wish you well on your continued journey of spiritual growth.  I am proud to have been touched by you.  On behalf of all the hungry people we feed each week, I offer gratitude.  It has been an honor and a pleasure.

I cannot thank you enough for your trust, your support, and your confidence in our humble venture.

Peace and food for all.

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Thurman Greco

Thanks Jan: An Open Letter to Jan Whitman

Thank you for the wonderful job you did throughout your career at the Food Bank of the Hudson Valley.    Many, many people are escaping hunger because of the direction you offered.  This time at the Food Bank really amounts to your entire adult life because the Food Bank was your only employer.  You’ve been the face of the Food Bank of the Hudson Valley for over 20 years!

Several years ago you invited me to serve on your board.  It’s been an honor and a pleasure to do this job, although I’m not really a “board person” anymore.  I’m a food pantry coordinator.  I accepted the invitation because you asked me to.  I never wanted to do anything more than feed a 3-day supply of food to each of the hungry shoppers at the food pantry.

When I met the other board members at meetings, I saw a group of people genuinely devoted to you…devoted to your concept of helping each and every person needing food, one person at a time.  Your attitudes strongly influenced the board members.  Board members attracted the resources needed to do the job because they were devoted to your dedication and mission.

What a gift!

And, while I’m focused on gifts  – donations – money, I cannot overlook the grants.  Jan, you are a wonderful grant writer.  Grant writers in your category are as scarce as hens’ teeth.  Very few can successfully bring in a grant package over $100,000.  You have no problem with that at all.  In fact, you brought in several in the summer of 2014.  And, to top it off, you were very quiet about it.  I only found out about them by  accident.  Then, of course, I spilled the beans far and wide.

Most recently, you introduced the concept of the Farm Stand to our area.  What a change you brought:  As a result of your leadership and innovation, hungry people have more access to fresh produce.  You goal was to have Farm Stands in communities throughout the  Hudson Valley where hungry people can shop for fresh produce at an affordable price:  free.

I visited 2 of the Farm Stands in Kingston recently.  One is located at People’s Place and the other at Community Action.  People with no $$$ now shop for the nutritious foods they need.

What a concept:  Excited, happy shoppers take fruits and vegetables home.  The choice includes:









Jan, none of us should have been a bit surprised by your idea.  After all, you’ve always felt individuals are important.  Your Farm Stand concept makes more fresh produce available to the hungry on an ongoing basis.  By focusing on feeding the hungry, one person at a time, you touched the lives of thousands  in our area.

All this Farm Stand food is donated by grocers and farmers.  No merchant is losing a sale by not seeing these shoppers at a supermarket line because these shoppers don’t have the income to buy any of these foods.

To accomplish this, you diverted food on its way to the landfill.  The implementation of the Farm Stand concept is moving the Food Bank of the Hudson Valley into the future at breakneck speed.

Thank you for all you did over the years.  When I think about this, I realize that you gave your adult life to the Food Bank of the Hudson Valley.

Reluctantly, it’s time for us all to accept your resignation as the Executive Director of the Food Bank of the Hudson Valley.  You are adopting a new lifestyle.  The time has come for corporate memory and focus to change.

The building housing the Food Bank of the Hudson Valley offers much opportunity now that Farm Stands are a part of the function in the area.  This cavernous space is ready for someone with the energy, budget, and authority to move in the future.  You know, more than anyone, that much can be accomplished with the right person at the helm.  You set the stage for this to happen.

I served on your board.  Now, I offer my resignation.  It’s time for the employees and volunteers of the future Food Bank of the Hudson Valley to write their own story.

Peace and food for all.

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Thurman Greco


Dear Neighbor


THIS WEEK WAS GLORIOUS IN THE RESERVOIR FOOD PANTRY.   Although the pantry was so cold that the pens froze at the sign-in book, we didn’t even mind.  After all, I’m experienced with working in a cold space.  The Woodstock Reformed Church was never heated either.  So what.  It’s better for the produce, don’t you agree?

But, back to the glorious part…our first ever mailer went out this week.  Or, rather, the whole project was completed on Tuesday when I took the last load of letters to the Kingston Post Office to the Bulk Mail room.

What a wonderful feeling that was!  We’ve been working for months on this mailer.  Robyn Daugherty addressed envelopes on many pantry afternoons beginning about last March.

Bonnie Lykes and Felice Castellano took up pen and envelope throughout the summer months.   Then, other people joined in at the table and we finally finished the job this week.

Finalists included  Louise Cacchio, Garrett O’Dell, Susanne Traub, and Barbara Freisner.

Prasida and I signed the letters.

The entire project was a huge leap of faith.  After all, the Reservoir Food Pantry only opened in September, 2013, on Route 28 in Boiceville, when volunteers delivered food to 21 homebound households..  With little to no fanfare, we’ve been growing steadily.  The need for a food pantry in our area was great when we opened, and it’s even greater today.

WE SERVE OVER 900 PEOPLE MONTHLY.   40% of those served are homebound residents in the area  unable to come to the pantry.  Families and individuals visiting the  Reservoir Food Pantry weekly come from many different circumstances.  Some are single parent families.  Some work more than one job and are still unable to buy food after they pay the rent and get the gas to go to work.  Some have lost their jobs, their homes.  Still others are struggling with life-altering circumstances, be it a health issue, an accident, the loss of a family member, or other personal disaster.

The Reservoir Food Pantry was founded by local residents, Sean Bigler and Bonnie Lykes.  We’re fortunate to have the support pf volunteers from the community.  There are no salaried employees.  We nourish the hungry, both in our pantry and by delivering food to those unable to visit the pantry.  We offer canned, packaged food, bread and fresh produce regularly.  We also offer a limited amount of items of dignity.

THE PANTRY NEEDS YOUR HELP.   Your generosity is appreciated and your gift will be used to directly  help neighbors.  Please make your check payable to the Reservoir Food Pantry, and mail it to P. O. Box 245, Boiceville, NY 12412.

If you prefer to donate by credit card, please visit our website at

Reservoir Food Pantry, Inc., is a registered 501(c)3 non-profit charity and your contribution is tax deductible to the extent allowed by law.

Peace and food for all.

Thurman Greco

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Peace and food for all.

Thurman Greco


School Days Are Here Again! – feeding the hungry


Hunger is a condition.  It accompanies malnourishment.  As Mark Bittman of the New York Times said:  “Hunger can lead to starvation; starvation to death.

School supplies, school clothes, shoes, coats, sweaters, lunches, snacks.


Nationwide, 17 million children go to bed at night hungry.  In many of these households, parents and older siblings go hungry so the younger ones can eat.

FOOD INSECURE SCHOOL CHILDREN HAVE A MUCH HARDER TIME LEARNING THAN THEIR WELL FED CLASSMATES.   Statistics from the Feeding America survey tell us that one child in five eats only as school.  Food Banks try to fill this gap by offering backpack programs in tandem with Food Pantries and Elementary Schools.  Lucky is the child leaving school   Friday afternoons with a backpack filled with nourishing food to eat over the weekend.

There are few to no Backpack Programs in our area so the volunteers at the Reservoir Food Pantry work overtime to secure enough food for families with school children.

Only 2 weeks ago pantry volunteers were outside the Kingston Walmart for three days soliciting peanut butter and jelly for school sandwiches.  These volunteers will return  on September 4th, 5th, and 6th to ask for food for school lunches.

On Saturday, September 27th, we’ll be outside the Boiceville IGA asking for food for school children also.

If you can drop by either of these places with a donation, we’ll be extremely grateful.  If you can’t make it and want to send a donation, please send it to Reservoir Food Pantry, P.O.Box 245, Boiceville, NY 12412.  Either  way:   dropping by the store or sending a check, we’re grateful.  The food will be used to   feed hungry children.


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Peace and food for all.

Thurman Greco


Meetings, Meetings, Meetings: Preparing for the next Big One

“If one person, just one person does it they may think he’s really sick and they won’t take him.  And, if two people do it, in harmony, they may think they’re both faggots and they won’t take either one of them.  And if three people do it, three, can you imagine three people walking in singing a bar of Alice’s Restaurant and walking out, they may think it’s an organization.” – Arlo Guthrie

Disaster Preparedess, Response, and Recovery

Hudson Valley Farm Fresh

Shelter Committee

Volunteer Workforce

Feeding Committee

Community Animal Response Team

The list continues.  Groups have been meeting  for months.

THE FOCUS IS ON THE NEXT BIG ONE.  I’ve attended some because, as a pantry coordinator,  I’ll be involved somehow.    After a hurricane or other disaster, the people visiting  a pantry can be frightened, confused.

A pantry coordinator after Irene and Sandy, I experienced first hand the face of tragedy worn by the shoppers after they lost homes, jobs, cars.

AFTER IRENE AND SANDY, I TRIED TO INTEREST WOODSTOCK PEOPLE IN PREPARING FOR THE NEXT BIG ONE.   I was too soon.   The response was silence and cold stares.

Now, a group works to minimize future damage.  The thought, planning, preparation, is significant, thorough, detail oriented.  Many people are  important in this endeavor:  Michael Berg from Family, Robert  Lamoree from Community Action, and Michael Raphael from American Red Cross.   Beth McLenden from UlsterCorps, John Scott from Bruderhof, Stacey Rein and Su Marcey from United Way, and a deeply involved group supporting these people.  Representatives from FEMA, Homeland Security, Office of the Aging, Alcoa are doing their part to move this preparations along.

THERE ARE OTHERS – MANY OTHERS.  What’s important is not  the names.  Everyone does whatever is necessary  to minimize disaster damage and to be more effective responders:

They’re seeking out community leaders and residents to identify shelters, feeding stations.

They’re planning innovative strategies to reach more people.

They’re making efforts to identify those who will need assistance.

They’re working to get as many people trained as possible.

FOR MANY, THE EFFORTS ARE HERCULEAN   I see legacies being left as people work.  I  see careers boosted.  But, let me state here:  I don’t think  even one person is focused on either legacy or career ladders.  Everyone is focused on disaster preparation, response, and relief.

Every Monday afternoon at 2, Reservoir Food Pantry volunteers gather behind Robert’s Auction and distribute food to people whose lives were seriously impacted by Hurricane Irene and Superstorm Sandy.  Many still do not have their lives repaired.

Our disaster preparation focus at the pantry is how to feed shoppers during and after a disaster.   We’re trying to identify the older homebound persons who might not be on anyone else’s radar screen.

FOR THIS, ‘HYPER LOCAL KNOWLEDGE IS NEEDED’.  Unfortunately, Ulster County is a large, diverse plot of land.  Few know the entire county intimately.  Disaster Preparedness, Response, and Recovery Committee people are scouring the entire county and gathering information, planning…working hard to have Ulster County ready for the next Big One.


On Tuesday, August 26th at 10 am, there will be a Phoenicia/Shandaken Area Disaster Workforce Planning Meeting at St. Francis deSales Parish Hall in Phoenicia at 109 Main St.


On Tuesday, September 2nd from 5 to 9 pm, there will be an introductory training at the Ulster County Sheriff’s office, 380 Boulevard, in Kingston.  I’m going to attend this one.  Can you come too?

And, on Saturday, October 18th, Alcoa/American Red Cross will sponsor an Emergency Preparedness Event from 10:30 am to 3 pm at Alcoa Fastening Systems, 1 Corporate Drive, Kingston.


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Peace and food for all.

Thurman Greco




Food Pantry Blog – Whew!

Such a day!  Such a week!  Even I can’t believe all of it.  But, I suppose actions speak for themselves.  And, I have to realize we’ve been working towards this week for a whole year now.

Volunteers at the Reservoir Food Pantry are living proof that excitement can make a person drunk.  We were intoxicated on gratitude all day  Monday.

For starters, Prasida went off to Latham early Monday morning and returned at noon with almost 700 pounds of fresh produce – gorgeous produce.  Corn, greens, potatoes, onions, carrots, herbs, spinach, apples, apricots, peaches, melons, beans.

And, while Prasida was off on 87 doing her thing, the two Bobs,  Pat and I were over at the Hannaford’s getting our very first monthly shipment.  With a lot of planning and praying, this went off without a hitch.  This is a huge step for our new little pantry.  We’re working on a standing appointment at 11:30 on delivery day!

Then,  we made our way over to the pantry and set up our tables.  The spread, under a gorgeous sky, was the best ever.  And, to celebrate all this bounty, some of us worked the distribution tables serving  groceries from the Food Bank, Migliorelli Farm, Shandaken Community Gardens, Bread Alone, and Esotec.

Others  measured shelving for the new shed we just put behind Robert’s Auction.  At one point, Sean went off to purchase same so we can get it installed.

By the end of the pantry day, we were all so excited we weren’t touching the ground.

We’re soon to celebrate our first anniversary!  We hope you’ll come out between 4 and 7 on the afternoon of September 11th.  We won’t be hard to find.  We’ll be in the adorable red shed behind Robert’s Auction in Boiceville.

Come out and see what all the excitement is about.  Come share some refreshments.  Come see where people pantry shop in the Reservoir area!

Peace and food for all.

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Thurman Greco



Statistics, Statistics, Statistics in a small town food pantry in Woodstock, New York


“In many cases, homelessness is caused by extreme misfortune, not the lack of motivation by people who suffer from it.”-Elaina Wilson

EVERY MONTH  we (pantries, soup kitchens) send our statistics to the Hunger Prevention Nutrition Assistance Program (HPNA) people – the government. Numbers tell it all: how many seniors, adults, children in how many households came by for a three-day-supply of food. Except…sometimes the numbers really don’t tell it all.

A Wednesday afternoon in the pantry prepares the statistics for the HPNAP people:
“Hi, how are you doing today? Can you sign your name here? How many people are in your household? The line isn’t too long today. Things seem to be going pretty fast.”
“Nice to see you Mary. How’re things going for you?”

“Thurman, we’re so glad we could make it here today.   We’ve been having a little bit of a rough patch lately. Our three grandkids are coming tomorrow and we don’t have any food in the house at all.”

Or…”How are you doing today? Your hat is just beautiful. I bet it’s one of the ones you made yourself. Glad to see you.”

“I’M NOT DOING TOO WELL TODAY.   I got evicted and I’m moving in with my friend Mike. And, he lives in a studio over on Simmons. Thurman, this year has been such a struggle. Here I am, a talented, well educated woman. I just can’t seem to overcome the obstacles I’m being faced with. I can’t get a job. My efforts to start something have just not worked at all. I’m so sorry to be unloading these things on you but, right now, there’s just no one else.”

IN THE RESOURCE POOR CATEGORY THE FAMILIES CHOOSE BETWEEN FOOD AND  utilities, food and housing payments, food and medicine or medical care, food and transportation, food and gasoline. This category chooses between everyday necessities and food.
Or…”We haven’t seen you in awhile. How’re you doing?”

“ACTUALLY, I’M DOING PRETTY GOOD.  I GOT THE BONE MARROW TRANSPLANT SCHEDULED  for next month and now I’m looking for someone to go down with me to the city to help take care of me when I get out of the hospital. I have to stay in a motel for three months after the transplant and they won’t let me get the transplant until someone promises to go and be with me. Do you know someone who can go with me? Thurman, I have absolutely no money to pay this person. I’ve got no money left at all. I know you aren’t allowed a bulletin board but can I put up some kind of notice somewhere for help?”
“I wish we did. But the building committee won’t allow us to put anything on the walls. I’ll try to spread the word, though.”

MANY PEOPLE SERVED BY PANTRIES LIVE IN  poor health or without access to adequate medical care. About 50% of pantry shoppers have unpaid medical or hospital bills. This lack of insurance can be financially devastating to a family when illness strikes. The longer a person is uninsured, the worse the health becomes.

Or…”Hey Chuck, how’re you doing? We haven’t seen you in awhile.”

“Not so good Thurman. I’ve got to have neck surgery again. This is going to be the third time. I’m not even supposed to be out today but I’m completely out of food.”
Or…”Good to see you Bob. We haven’t seen you in awhile. What’s happening?”
“Well, Thurman, my car’s engine died so I can’t get out of the house. I’m completely out of food so I begged a neighbor to bring me here today.”

MOST PEOPLE SEEKING FOOD ASSISTANCE LIVE IN  households existing below the Federal Poverty Line. About 75% of these people nationally earn less than $17,000 per year for a household of three.

Or…”How’re you doing today?”
“Fred’s still in the hospital. He’s been diagnosed with kidney disease and is on a special diet I’m so glad you had me go see Dr. Longmore. He told me exactly who to go see, what paperwork to get…everything I needed to get care for Fred. Because, Thurman, you know that I don’t have a dime. He’s going to get out of the hospital soon and will be on a special diet. Thank God the pantry has all these fruits and vegetables. Thurman, I don’t know what we would do without this pantry. You know we have no money and are living right on the edge. I’m hoping you have some laundry soap today.”

Or…”We haven’t seen you in a looong time. How’re things going?”
“WELL, IT’S BEEN A VERY COLD WINTER.   I’ve been having a little housing trouble. I was camping out on Meads Mountain but I got caught and fined $500. So, I picked up my things and moved in from the road another thousand feet. I don’t think anyone can see me from the road now. And, I’ll tell you Thurman, it’s cold up there.”

Taken from the perspective of the people in the line, the statistics tell it all…just like it is.

1063 households
1464 Adults
537 seniors
616 children
That about tells it all.
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Peace and food for all.
Thurman Greco