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Feeding the hungry: New Rescue Food Program reaches those in need, reduces food waste

Updated: 
October 30, 2017 - 4:01am

WAIMEA — Collecting leftover food from restaurants and stores every day of the week to help those in need is no small task.

Rescue Food Program (RFP), a new Waimea initiative that launched last month, has distributed more than 2,000 pounds of food from Pohakuloa Training Area (PTA), KTA Waimea, Starbucks, AFC Sushi and local restaurants to Annunciation Church, Imiola Church, Waimea Elderly Housing and Kamuela Senior Housing, who then share it with residents in need.

Also known as Food for Keiki &Ohana, RFP is volunteer-driven without an office, grants or monetary donations presently. Residents use their own vehicles, gas and equipment. Nonperishable food donated is kept in a 40-foot container, donated by Waimea resident Maulili Dickson earlier this month.

For cooked food, RFP is required to keep it at the proper temperature. When picked up it must be delivered within four hours, put on a stove or kept at the same temperature — cold or hot.

KTA Waimea was one of the first businesses to join the effort.

“I was approached a few months ago and asked if KTA would support the program to help feed the needy in our community. We immediately were interested since it was a win-win situation; feeding the needy and reducing food waste,” Colin Miura said, the store’s director. “We wanted to support programs and agencies in our community that do so.”

Once RFP receives a call that leftover food is available, a volunteer is designated for pickup.

“Rescuing food from stores and restaurants that might otherwise go to waste provides free quality food to Waimea’s emergency food systems,” Donni Sheather said, RFP’s founder. “If I call someone to pick it up and they’re not available, they always try to help me find someone else. We have this list that keeps revolving and turning every time.”

Donations have come from as far as PTA, located on the high plateau between Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea.

“We pick up flats of food from there. They and other sources have given us salads, stews, chili, produce, Japanese food — whatever — and nobody complains who receives it,” Sheather said.

Starbucks is also a leader in the initiative.

“Michelle Stevenson does what she can to support the community by supplying juices, pastries and coffee. Whatever they have leftover, they give,” Sheather said.

Residents at two Waimea senior housing facilities greet those delivering the food with open arms.

Hawaii’s good-Samaritan laws shields people, such as RFP volunteers and those organizations donating food, from liability when helping others. It is an attempt by lawmakers to encourage helpfulness and heroism.

RFP is also in talks with bigger businesses, including Costco and Longs Drugs, to secure food donations in the future.

“Next we want to connect with Hawaiian Homes to bring food there,” Sheather said.

RFP is currently formulating a way to offer food to the community on Thanksgiving Day.

“We’re trying to find a place to serve cooked food,” Sheather said. “I know we will find it but we’ll need volunteers and organizations to donate the dishes too.”

Eventually they plan to expand the RFP program, but for the time being volunteers are listening to the community and what is needs.

“One of the original goals was to get a warehouse so that we could put food and clothing there with a little sign out front that says, ‘Pay what you can’ to give people dignity and have a place they can count on,” Sheather said. “I think that’s down the road, but we have the container for now.”

For info or to volunteer Thanksgiving Day or other days, call 938-9667.

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