Tsunami Overload? Give To Hawaii Foodbank

Jo McGarry
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Wednesday - March 24, 2010
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Hawaii Foodbank’s Polly Kauahi

If your closets and pantries are groaning under the weight of all those extra bags of rice and cases of water you bought during the tsunami scare a few weeks ago, Polly Kauahi, director of development for Hawaii Foodbank, has the perfect solution.

“We’re happy to take any canned goods,” she says. “Many people were out stocking up during the early hours of the first tsunami warning, and for the people who bought too much, we’re more than happy to help relieve them of any extra canned goods.”

Any reason is a good one for the food bank to get its message across and fill its shelves, especially as the number of people described as “food insecure” is growing yearly. A large number of Hawaii Foodbank clients are working people but with income levels that keep them below the official poverty guidelines.

And of the families that use the food bank, more than 33,000 children in Hawaii are food insecure - that means hungry on a daily basis, and for many kids, it means not knowing where the next meal is coming from.


At Hawaii Foodbank, there’s about a 16-day supply of food on hand - not much when you consider the possibility of a major disaster.

“We’d have to bring in emergency food if there was any kind of disaster where more people than normal needed supplies,” says Kauahi.

Among the numerous fundraisers and food drives around the island, none is more successful than the annual Check Out Hunger Campaign, the supermarket program encouraging community cooperation. At the beginning of the holiday campaign last October there was some trepidation about collecting donations in this difficult economic market.

Turns out there was no need for concern. The Check out Hunger campaign this year raised a record-breaking $184,000.

“We didn’t think that we’d top last year,” says Kauahi, “and we certainly didn’t think that we’d raise this much when most people are experiencing job losses and difficult times.”

But there’s something about the campaign - it’s the one where you tear off the green coupon at the checkout and donate money that buys meals for children, families and seniors - that appeals.

“I think part of the success is that when people see they can feed someone for an entire week for just a few dollars, it makes an impression,” says Kauahi. “And the stores, along with Kraft Foods Hawaii, make it accessible to people and easy to participate in.”

There’s also some evidence that the difficult economy might, in its own way, be responsible for an increase in donations.

“More and more people are using the food bank right now,” she says, “and that means that it’s likely that people you know, your neighbors or even colleagues at work are coming to us for help.”

Nothing like the feeling of “there but for the grace ...” to spur us into action.

There’s plenty of opportunity to help Hawaii Foodbank this month and next, as the annual Food Drive culminatesApril 17 with a food collection day. If you’d like to volunteer your work-place or your family to help with collections or just raising awareness, check out hawaiifoodbank.org.

And if you are looking for a place for those 20-pound bags of rice and those towering cans of tuna? Napa Auto Parts and Ruby Tuesday are among the year-round drop-off points for Hawaii Foodbank donations.

Happy eating!


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