Hunger Is Not a Disease

A Holiday Gone Wrong


“When we talk cooking and eating, we are talking love, since the entire history of how a family loves – when and how they learned to love – can be told in most kitchens.” – Marion Roach Smith

The first year a person uses a food pantry for primary shopping, Christmas is a holiday gone wrong.  After several years, Christmas becomes whatever the household can make of it.  The adjustment is, for some, difficult and for others more difficult.

The difficulty lies, mostly, in the ability to get food items considered “traditional” by a household when no money is available to purchase them in a grocery store.

Once, I heard some pantry shoppers talking in the line about holidays past.  Their conversation centered around people celebrating by eating too much delicious food and visiting  with relatives, friends, neighbors while swapping stories, catching up on the news.

For more and more people living in poverty, this just doesn’t happen.  Both households and individuals find themselves unable to finance the expense of the holiday event.

Not only can they not afford the food, more and more people no longer have the table to sit at, the chairs to sit on, and the stove to cook the food.  Recipes, pots and pans, china, silverware, crystal are long since gone.  Eating without a kitchen is the way of the modern household living on a minimum wage.

With luck, today’s struggling class household will have the gas to get the car to a soup kitchen.  Otherwise, it’s going to be a regular day with a meal prepared in a crock pot, or on a hot plate.  The economic situation for some is that just to take the day off and still be able to buy groceries the next day is more a goal than anything else.

Realities faced by the hungry pantry shopper weigh on my shoulders every day of the year.  This weight keeps me squirreling away food so the pantry shelves can be stocked for celebrations with canned soup, canned gravy, potatoes, stuffing mix, canned green beans, cranberry sauce, chicken broth and all the fruits and vegetables that can be gotten at food drives and the food bank.  Storeroom space and a few freezers at the food pantry are essential.

Pantry volunteers have a difficult time just keeping up with the ever increasing client census.  Those with a stable shopper base, a large storeroom and connections can begin scrounging in  July to set aside food.  It’s extremely challenging to get several hundred or a thousand of an item in the summer and store the food until December.

After several years and several holidays, the food gatherer in the household becomes, if time allows, more skilled at scrounging for food in both the pantry and the grocery store.  The difficulty lies, mostly, in the ability to get food items considered “traditional” by a household when no money is available to purchase the items in a supermarket.

While distributing food, I mentally predict who’s going to be successful at scrounging and gathering by the sound of the automobile as it’s driven into the parking lot of the pantry.   A successful holiday dinner depends on a working automobile, time available between jobs, and the energy to sustain the search.

Transportation challenges, disabilities, and serious illness in the family can defeat all efforts.

Thank you for reading this article.

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Thurman Greco

Woodstock, NY

Book Update:  “A Healer’s Handbook” has been published and is available on Nook and Kindle!  It will be available in the paper version in early January.  If you order it now, it will be mailed directly to you upon publication.

More information about this book can be found on

Publication of “The Unworthy Hungry” is now scheduled for January 2018.

Thank you for your support and your patience.  Now that “Healer’s Handbook” has been published, there will be more frequent and regularly published articles on all blogs.

Thanks Again

The Big 3: We get less, pay more, and do without.


 (The Minium SNAP Allotment)
Prices from Kingston Walmart

– 1 dozen eggs – $1.98
– 1/2 gallon milk – $1.94
– 1 lb. pinto beans – $1.28
– 1 lb. rice – $ .84
– 1 lb. onions – $ .99
– 1 can diced tomatoes – $ .79
– 1 lb ground turkey – $2.98
– 1 can corn – $ .77
– 1 lb. potatoes – $2.97
– 1 can tuna – $ .78
Total = $15.32
I first met Pat last fall when she came to the Reservoir Food Pantry the first time.  She’s an older woman, a widow.  Her husband died just over a year ago She’s still making her way toward her new life.

“I never dreamed it would be so hard…being alone like this.  I didn’t tell my children that I came here.  I don’t want them to know the situation.”

While she spoke, she wiped an occasional tear.  She moved through the pantry line composed of a group of women, all about her own age.  They chose corn, apples, squash, late season greens, onions, potatoes.  As the line snaked forward, she turned her attention to the canned goods:  beans, soup, fruits, veggies.

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

the forms,

the humiliation of being unable to survive on her own,

the long wait in a building that she may not even be able to find.  And, finally, she’s afraid of the whole process which she finds threatening.

Her financial situation isn’t so far from all the other women in the pantry line.  Grocery shopping for the elderly is difficult under the best circumstances.    Getting to the grocery store can be challenging for order people – getting around in the parking lot and going up and down the grocery store aisles is no fun anymore.  Then, when they can’t find what they need at a price they can afford, they have to maneuver the muddy  parking lot and the scary entrance ramp at our pantry.

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, finding affordable high quality food becomes more difficult as the days go by.  As difficult as it is for Pat, she’s one of the lucky ones.  Her automobile works.

The combination of  a nonworking automobile, bad weather,  insufficient $$$ is  the makings of a disaster for a senior.

I keep telling everyone who will listen that seniors should get their SNAP card, a list of nearby pantries, and their Medicare card at the same time.  So far, nobody has heard.

“Of course not.” I tell myself.  “Why should they?  We’ve all got gray hair.”

Seniors struggle with the Big 3:



medical expenses.

Forget the frills like Kleenex and clothes.  As seniors, we get less, pay more, and go without.  We decide whether to heat or eat.

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

There is a real pressure to feed the rising tide of hungry at every pantry.  We receive 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 hunger

deep cuts in social spending programs.

Every pantry is different.  Some feed anyone who needs food.

Others are arbitrary and biased when it comes to deciding who can or  cannot receive food.

Yet others require paper work which cuts eliminates the homeless entirely.

There are too many agencies with too many people standing in line for too little food.  No Food Bank office can oversee or supervise the selection process.

At Reservoir Food Pantry, we serve a 3-day-supply of food with a large dash of dignity to all who come.

The lines and crowds outside pantries can easily convince any onlookers that our nation has a food problem.

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Peace and food for all.

Thurman Greco