The Easy Way to Help

Kraft’s Check-Out Hunger program makes it possible for shoppers to contribute to the Hawaii Foodbank at the checkout counter, helping to feed hungry folks during the holidays. 

Susan Sunderland
Wednesday - November 24, 2010
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Pam Suyetsugu scans a Check-Out Hunger donation card at Times-Beretania

Check-Out Hunger allows shoppers to contribute to Hawaii Foodbank at the checkout counter

Hunger knows no friend but its feeder. -Aristophanes

This is not a sob story about starving souls in our community. We know in the rush of life you’d prefer not to be bothered by emotional sagas. We get that.

This is about the remarkable ability of our community to deal with adversity and always come through to help fellow citizens. More remarkable is our ability to do so in a perfect storm of economic downturn, governments in crisis and rising demands for social services and needs. Add to this the unpredictable force of natural disasters, and one learns the true meaning of tailspin.

We don’t discount the plight of individuals and families who truly are challenged during this time. The nation is facing one of its longest recessions in history. Charitable giving is down, and the search to finance charitable work is more competitive than ever. That’s the big picture.

Now, zoom in on a local organization that doesn’t know the meaning of “daunting challenges” and demonstrates year after year its ability to help individuals and families with compassion and fine-tuned efficiency.

We visit Hawaii Foodbank on Kilihau Street in Mapunapuna to find out what happens to food and monetary donations made by ordinary citizens.

Glen Inouye moves crates of bulk items at the food bank

Like you, I am approached with pleas for contributions in the course of everyday life. Most of the time, I confess, I ignore the cries for help.

“Charity begins at home!” I react indignantly.

Not that Hawaii Foodbank hasn’t tried to get my attention and make it convenient for me to respond. Letter carriers leave collection bags in my mailbox. Volunteers and media personalities wave at me from curbside collection points. I’m reminded of seasonal giving by cashiers at the grocery store.

I call these interception points “charitable moments of truth” when one tests the level of compassion in one’s soul. What choices do you make?

On occasion, we make the questionable choice at a checkout of plunking down $5 - rather than for charity - to buy a gossip magazine with headlines like “Will Kendra Leave Hank?” and “Is Charlie Sheen Headed to Rehab?”

The food bank’s Kenneth Gabriel places Kraft products into a sorting bin

There’s just no accounting for fuzzy judgment.

Perhaps the whole customer-relations routine at retail checkout stands must change so we are not given so many choices. We come for a carton of milk and box of cereal, but are confronted with, “Paper or plastic? Debit or credit? Would you like help to the car?”

We love the attention. But when cashiers start reciting charitable donation requests, it becomes a whole new ball game. Saying “no” can be intimidating. Saying “yes” makes you a checkout poster child.

Actually, thousands of local residents pass the compassion-at-checkout test. Most consider it a quick, convenient way to help a cause they support anyway. They tell us it saves them the time and effort of writing a separate check, putting it in the mail and waiting for a tax-return receipt.

Being a good Samaritan today is as quick as a bar-code scan.

In the case of Hawaii Foodbank’s “Check-Out Hunger” program, shoppers tear off a bright-green coupon at participating stores. Donations can be made in three amounts: $2.81 to feed a child breakfast for a week; $12.43 to feed a senior lunch for a month; and $16.84 to feed a family dinner for a week. The amount is added to the bill and donated to four statewide food banks.

Participating retailers include:

* Times Supermarkets statewide

* Safeway Stores statewide

* Tamura’s Market-Wahiawa and Hauula

* Tamura SuperetteWaianae

* Tamura’s Fine Wine & Liquors on Oahu

* Kokua Market Natural Foods Co-op on Oahu

* Don Quijote Stores on Oahu

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