Sen. Hirono donates salary during shutdown to Food Basket

  • Duane Pajimola of The Food Basket gives Sen. Mazie Hirono a tour of the food bank's facilities Wednesday afternoon. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • The Food Basket executive director Kristin Frost Albrecht shows Sen. Mazie Hirono “da bag” of local produce distributed by the food bank on Wednesday. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

  • The Food Basket Executive Director Kristin Frost Albrecht receives a donation from Sen. Mazie Hirono Wednesday at the food bank. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • The Food Basket Executive Director Kristin Frost Albrecht receives a donation from Sen. Mazie Hirono Wednesday at the food bank. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • The Food Basket staff Sarah Hamakawa, left, Joann Abiley, Kristin Frost Albrecht and Marshall Akaumu accept a donation from Sen. Mazie Hirono Wednesday at the food bank. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

KAILUA-KONA — U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono made good on her word to donate her salary during the partial federal shutdown with a donation to The Food Basket, Hawaii Island’s Food Bank.

The Democrat on Wednesday presented a check to The Food Basket Executive Director Kristin Frost Albrecht that’ll cover the purchase of enough rice to feed 450 families.

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“This pays for our three pallets of rice that we bought for the shutdown,” Albrecht said, explaining to Hirono that the nonprofit assisted hundreds of out-of-work and in-work-with-delayed-pay federal employees during the 35-day shutdown. “That’s powerful. That’s what this does.”

For many of those federal workers, it was the first time using the services provided by The Food Basket, she added.

“They’ve always been on the other side of the donating,” said Albrecht. “It’s just that circle and how it can happen to any one at any time.”

The nonprofit provides food to 14,000 people per month on Hawaii Island, with about 75 percent of those people residing on the east side. That’s up 30 percent from last year, Albrecht said.

Hirono was quick to say that she was sure that when those families got back on their feet, they would complete the circle and quickly donate to the nonprofit that helped them through a rough time.

But that’s already started happening, Albrecht told the senator, as many of those people who received help came out to give back during the 19th annual Feed-A-Thon, a 10-day food drive hosted at KTA Super Stores during February.

“They came — and they were donating for us,” Albrecht said.

“That brings tears to my eye,” replied Hirono.

Hirono announced Dec. 27, 2018, she would donate the pay she received during the partial federal government shutdown to food banks in Hawaii’s four counties. She said she chose the food banks because they deal with life necessities.

“I wanted to go to something really basic — food,” Hirono said. “We decided early on, before we knew how long it was going to last, to donate to the food banks.”

Her salary is being divvied up between The Food Basket on Hawaii Island, the Maui Food Bank and the Hawaii Food bank on Oahu and Kauai.

The dollar amount provided to The Food Basket on Hawaii Island Wednesday was not divulged other than it was enough to make up for the rice purchases amid the partial shutdown. Each pallet had 100 to 150 15-pound bags of the Hawaii staple.

“This is just a small token,” Hirono said to Albrecht and a handful of the nonprofit’s staff before receiving a quick tour of the Kona Warehouse at Ulu Wini.

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Hirono’s giving on Wednesday wasn’t the first time she has donated her salary amid government shutdowns.

“We’ve had three shutdowns (now) and I’ve always donated what I called my shutdown salaries,” Hirono said. The Senator also donated her salary during government shutdowns in January 2018 and 2013.

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