by Ren Miyatake
Special to Ka ‘Ohana
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Hawai‘i Foodbank has been doing its best to provide food for the community. The organization holds food drives, giving out food to people who cannot afford to purchase what they need.
Hawai‘i Foodbank president Ron Mizutani said, “The challenging part with COVID is we don’t know what demand will look like tomorrow, let alone the first of the year … our job is to stay stocked as best as we can. The reality is right now we’re fairly well stocked, but as fast as it gets in here, it’s headed out the door.”
While most of the organization’s operations is not through food drives, a drive can feed up to around 4,000 families in one day.
Bree Yoneda, a volunteer at one of the drives, said the experience was one of a kind.
“You never know who is in need of extra help during this time,” she said. “The Hawai‘i Foodbank is doing its part for the community to provide to those in need.”
O‘ahu’s demand for food assistance has increased 260 percent from last year, showing the effects the pandemic has had on people’s financial ability to put food on the table. As someone who has not suffered much financially from the pandemic, Yoneda said that being able to help was the least she could do to give back to those who have been hurt.
“This pandemic has and is taking away so much from everyone. No one should have to worry about where their next meal comes from,” she said.
Most of the food given out at the drives is local as it’s hard to get food sent from the mainland, Mizutani said.
“ … we have a little bit more of a challenge being that we have that big Pacific Ocean between us and where we get some of our food,” he said. “That’s why if you look down the line, you’ll see local. It’s mostly Hawai‘i, and that’s sort of the positive thing of this as well.”
Yoneda said that most of the produce she bagged and packed for the consumers was locally sourced.
“Though the packing lines moved at a quick pace, I noticed that much of the produce being put into the bags were from local brands that I usually support,” she said.
The Hawai‘i Foodbank is run solely on donations from the public. So far, it has spent about $5.1 million during the pandemic to support the public’s needs, a stark contrast to the $400,000 spent in 2019. During the pandemic, the organization received a $2 million gift from the City and County of Honolulu and the Hawai‘i Resilience Fund of the Hawai‘i Community Foundation, which has now been depleted due to the high demand for food.
For more information about the foodbank or to donate, go to its website at https://hawaiifoodbank.org.