I am a Hudson Valley Parent: Diane Reeder

From hungry to hero

Food, clothing, shelter — these are three of the foundations of parentingBut what if the first gets taken away? About 21% of Hudson Valley children are currently dealing with food insecurity, according to Feeding America. 

One Kingston mother found herself on the wrong side of that statistic a decade ago. Diane Reeder woke up one day in 2003 unable to walk, and practically unable to move. She had been exhausted for weeks, and had begun suffering from debilitating headaches, but she assumed she was just a typical run-down working mom with an infant, an 8-year-old, a teenager, and a husband.  

When Reeder learned that she had became acutely sick from chronic exposure to carbon monoxide (her employer at the time had a faulty heating system), and was told that she would need physical therapy just to walk again, her first thought was, “How are we going to eat?” 

With only $12.50 a week to spend on food for a family of five, she didn’t despair. She got creative. 

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Reeder, a chef who had been attending the Culinary Institute of America on and off since 1991 (she is still working on that degree), took what she had available to her through WIC [Women, Infants and Children, a government food program for families], and crafted gourmet dinners with little more than dried beans and milk.  

“I would take those seven gallons of milk that we got and make our own ricotta and mozzarella cheese,” she says. “We also got farmer’s market voucher once every season, and I’d really capitalize on the fresh fruit and vegetables for as long as I could. 

Through physical therapy, intense effort and her family’s support, Reeder was able to slowly regain her strength and mobility. With her health finally in check, she launched the Queens Galley food pantry in Kingston in 2007. In addition to providing meals 365 days a year, the Queens Galley offered educational and other support programs for hungry individuals and families. 

Funded exclusively by private and corporate donation, the Queens Galley served more than 10,000 meals a month before closing its doors in mid-December after her landlord announced he was selling the building 

Reeder and the board of directors are currently in the process of negotiations for a new venue for her soup kitchen and her other food programs, including School’s Out, a program that provides free or reduced lunches to children when school is not in session. 

In the meantime, Reeder helps fund her budding nutritional empire with vegetable’s polar opposite: a candy bar in the heart of uptown Kingston. 

“One night I was eating at Gabriel’s Café with my daughters (Megan, 23, Caitlin, 18, and Olivia, 10) and we found ourselves wishing that we could walk around town with a really good ice-cream cone after dinner,” Reeder says 

A storefront attached to her husband’s business, Knightly Endeavors, had opened up on Wall Street, and Reeder’s momentary craving turned into the Kingston Candy Bar, which sells vintage candies like Bit-O-Honeys, Jane’s Ice Cream and even offers lemonade stand (run by Olivia). 

Reeder openly acknowledges the irony of her position.  

“I spend my days trying to get kids to eat fruits and vegetables, and my nights selling candy to their parents,” she laughs. “But it’s all about balance!” 

Speaking of balance, Reeder says their stint with food insecurity drew the family closer, and forced them to reconsider their priorities. Now, they spend as much free time as they can muster together.  

The future of the Queens Galley is unclear. But with Reeder behind it, it is difficult to imagine that it isn’t inevitableOne thing is certain: the Queens Galley needs volunteers and donations “more than ever,” Reeder says. 

For more information or to volunteer for the Queens Galley, call 845-338-3468. The Kingston Candy Bar is located at 319 Wall Street. 


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