Big Hearts Help Fill Hungry Stomachs

Jade Moon
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Wednesday - February 24, 2010
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Just saw some numbers that blew me away. It’s from the most recent survey that counts the number of people who need food assistance in Hawaii. According to Feeding America, the Hawaii Foodbank provides food to 183,500 different people each year.

That in itself is a staggering number. But look at this: The survey done four years prior showed the food bank served 132,000 individuals. That’s an increase of 50,000 more people! And of course, the economy is only getting worse.

It’s sobering to look at the breakdown for children. The last figure for children served was 33,000. The most recent survey saw a huge jump - to 55,050. That’s a lot of hungry kids here in our Aloha State.

According to the survey:

* 11,000 Foodbank clients are over the age of 65.

* 79 percent of client households do not always know where they will get their next meal.

* 32 percent have had to choose between transportation and food.

* 28 percent have had to choose between rent/mortgage and food.

* 21 percent have had to choose between paying utility bills or buying food.

Can you imagine having to make these tough choices - especially when you have kids?

As the Hawaii Foodbank gears up for its annual Food Drive (April 17), the numbers are a reminder that the need is greater than ever. Polly Kauahi, fund development director for the food bank, told a group of City and County employees last week that even before the numbers came out they already had a good idea of the growing need.

“Our member agencies are coming to us and saying, ‘We need more,’” she said.

And I’ve seen for myself that the lines at the food distribution sites have grown longer. At the same time, the amount of food each family gets is smaller. But they are always grateful.

The most touching aspect of all of this is that despite the hardship, Hawaii people have huge hearts. They give even when it hurts, even when they have less to give.

One fantastic Honolulu couple turned a windfall into a donation. “Dear Hawaii Foodbank,” the woman wrote, “recently we received a gift of $800 which we would like to contribute to your program to help the hungry.”

Wow. And there’s more, often from people who can barely afford to take care of themselves.

A Laie gentleman wrote: “83 years old, will be 84 in March. I do appreciate what I can get from the Hawaii Foodbank. My medication cost $60 plus doctor bills a month. So here’s what I can spare once in a while.”

An Ewa Beach man wrote, “I am an old man, 85 years old, and no more job. Besides I got big bills to pay in our apartment. I pay $350 a month for the next year 2010 I will pay $375.”

He’s worried about his rent increase, but sent a $5 donation. That is what I consider a blessed heart.

Another letter and another donation: “I am an elderly retiree who is in the middle 80s living on retirement pay. This is from my heart.”

And here’s a heartbreaker of a note - handwritten and attached to a personal check: “Have lost my job 6/16/09. Sorry I can’t give more.”

She gave $30.

To all these people, you epitomize the spirit of aloha that we are all so proud of in our state. These displays of humanity are so encouraging, a true counterbalance to all the negativity we have to deal with in our lives. It’s nice to be reminded that most folks are basically good.

I leave you with a letter from a woman named Evelyn, who says she and her husband Ed regularly donate to the food bank. This year they, like many others, have cut back on “nice to have” things in order to focus on their family’s basic needs and care.

But then, this wonderful woman goes on to say: “Even so, we are more fortunate than many others. Although this year is even more difficult to give a lot, it is the very type of situation that calls for us to give more than we normally do. What is that adage? ‘The less we have, the more we give.‘This is our small part in giving more.”

The Hawaii Foodbank’s food drive is in mid-April. If you want to organize a food drive within your company, just log on to Or e-mail me and I’ll put you in touch with the right people.

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