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Feeding Kauai’s Hungry

Hawai‘i Foodbank Kaua‘i Branch staff and board members (from left) Diane Keeler, Charlie King, Bill Buley, Michelle Panoke, Patrick Ono, James Hughes and Wes Perreira pose for a picture.

Hawai‘i Foodbank Kaua‘i Branch is seeking food and monetary donations — and willing helpers — to lend aid during its annual Food Drive Day April 13.

Hawai‘i Foodbank is in the middle of its 30th annual food drive campaign that closes April 13 with the nonprofit’s Food Drive Day, when Hawai‘i Foodbank Kaua‘i Branch and community volunteers will be at seven sites across the island to help collect food and funds.

“On this day, we ask others to join in the fight against hunger as we hope to raise community awareness of how hunger affects our very own residents, from keiki to kūpuna,” says Hawai‘i Foodbank Kaua‘i Branch’s advisory board member Patrick Ono. “To experience hunger is often a sign that families and individuals are struggling to meet their basic needs, forced to choose between eating or paying for basic necessities. It is important to note that hunger does not just affect the homeless or jobless. Hunger afflicts working-class households, senior citizens and children, some of our most vulnerable victims.”

Officer manager Michelle Panoke (left) and board member Diane Keeler spruce up the food bank’s shelves.

Currently, Hawai‘i Food-bank Kaua‘i Branch serves 13,000 island residents every year, including more than 4,000 children and 1,100 seniors. In addition, 73 percent of households served on the island are food insecure, meaning they do not always know where they will find their next meal, and 66 percent of these households include children.

“The sad truth is that many individuals in our community, including the elderly and children, go hungry every day. It is a heartbreaking reality that we must confront with every resource we can muster,” says Kaua‘i advisory board member Beth Tokioka.

According to Hawai‘i Foodbank Kaua‘i Branch director Wes Perreira, the nonprofit provides food to 39 partner agencies that help feed 1 in 5 people on Kaua‘i annually. Last year alone, Hawai‘i Foodbank Kaua‘i Branch distributed more than 1.4 million pounds of food, including more than 178,000 pounds of fresh produce.

The annual Food Drive Day is always an important event for Hawai‘i Foodbank Kaua‘i Branch, but Tokioka notes that this year’s event is especially critical.

Clyde Miller (right) loads donated food items onto a truck, as Kathleen Miller (left) and Michelle Panoke look on.

“We are coming off of a year in which Hawai‘i Foodbank Kaua‘i Branch was called to go above and beyond the call of duty in order to respond to the needs on Kaua‘i,” she says, referring to the devastating North Shore floods and recent government shutdown.

“We (continue to) have enormous needs of hungry residents all over the island. Yet, the Kauai community stands strong and together, we must dig deep — and dig even deeper — if we are going to effectively care for those in need of our assistance,” Tokioka adds.

On April 14, 2018, nearly 50 inches of rain fell on Kaua‘i’s North Shore in less than 24 hours.

“Homes were destroyed, businesses lost, and our North Shore community was devastated,” says Perreira. “Working with our food partner network, Hawai‘i Foodbank Kaua‘i Branch dropped off its first truckload of food and water while the rain was still falling.”

Hawai‘i Foodbank Kaua‘i Branch has utilized more than $261,000 to serve the island in the aftermath of last year’s April and August storms. In response, the nonprofit purchased and converted a trailer into a mobile food pantry to carry food to the Hā‘ena-Wainiha communities that were heavily impacted by the flooding.

The mobile pantry continues to deliver food once a week to about 80 North Shore families, and has provided about 330,000 pounds of food since last April.

During the partial government shutdown, Hawai‘i Foodbank Kaua‘i Branch was once again there, working closely with the U.S. Coast Guard and state American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations to distribute nearly six tons of nonperishable food, fresh produce and rice to hundreds of local families.

“To see our island ‘ohana get the food that we work so hard to get, nourishing their bodies and souls so they can see the promise of a better tomorrow … this is the magic,” says Perreira.

On annual Food Drive Day, Hawai‘i Foodbank Kaua‘i Branch will need the assistance of hundreds of volunteers to help accept food and monetary donations.

Helpers are needed between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. at the following locations: Big Save stores in ‘Ele‘ele, Kōloa and Waimea; Safe-way stores in Līhu‘e and Kapa‘a; Princeville Center; and Walmart. The top five most-needed food donations are canned proteins (like tuna and chicken), canned meals (spaghetti, chili or stew), canned vegetables, canned fruits and rice.

Year-round volunteer opportunities are also available, and Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative in Līhu‘e has a collection barrel accepting food donations throughout the year. Monetary contributions are also welcome, as a $10 donation can provide food for 25 meals.

“Every donation — no matter how large or small — is important and will be used to eliminate hunger on Kaua‘i,” says Tokioka. “Our business model ensures that 94 percent of monetary donations goes directly to purchasing food and supporting the hungry on Kaua‘i.”

For more information on Food Drive Day or for other volunteer opportunities, contact Hawai‘i Foodbank Kaua‘i Branch at 482-2224 or visit hawaiifoodbank.org.

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