Feeding the hungry: Food Basket seeks monetary donations, paper bags, volunteers

  • The Food Basket West Hawaii Operations Manager Marshall Akamu shows containers of canned protein that the food bank had in their warehouse in November. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today file photo)

The Food Basket, Hawaii Island’s food bank, is seeking the community’s help as they face uncertain times providing food for our island’s hungry as the coronavirus pandemic continues.

The Kona warehouse, located at Ulu Wini in Kaloko, will no longer be accepting food donations from the public in response to COVID-19, however, they are in need of monetary donations so they may continue to purchase nonperishable items from their suppliers, said Marshall Akamu, West and North Hawaii operations manager. The site is working with current partner agencies to distribute food.

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Under current conditions, Akamu estimates The Food Basket will run out of food mid-April, however, as the need grows it could be sooner.

“We need to purchase food so we can continue to supply our agencies,” he said.

Agencies include soup kitchens and food pantries that distribute directly to individuals. For a complete list of agencies and distribution times, visit www.hawaiifoodbasket.org.

Akamu said inquiries have been made requesting food to be delivered to those placed in quarantine and self isolation as the number of presumptive or positive COVID-19 cases is expected to climb. The agency is doing what it can to prepare for that situation should it arise.

Plans are also being made to deliver food to elderly housing and shut-ins, but without volunteers to make door-to-door drop off, they have no way to get the food to them, Akamu said. The Food Basket is also in need of paper bags and boxes to hold the food.

To make doorstep deliveries, not only for potential or confirmed coronavirus cases, but also for the island’s most vulnerable population, kupuna, the organization is in dire need of volunteers.

Jan Benlein is a resident of Hualalai Elderly Housing in Kona and is worried about her neighbors.

“We’re low income. We’re Seniors. We need help,” said Benlein.

She previously ran the nonprofit Auntie’s Angels that supplied her neighbors with food, but shut down the effort approximately 18 months ago because of her age and health concerns. But she feels an obligation to help her neighbors in this time of crisis.

“I have some of my old donors who are helping provide food for the shut-ins in our complex,” she said. “We need to get food to those who need it.”

She encouraged anyone who would like to donate to the housing complex to make three boxes of food and drop them off at each of the three phases’ community centers.

“We do the best we can, but we’re in a panic state. I’m worried about our neighbors, especially those who don’t have a car and can’t get to the store,” she said.

For those who would like more information on how to help, Benlein said she can be reached at 329-7897

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Akamu said anyone in need of emergency food supplies is asked to contact The Food Basket at 933-6030.

For more information, including how to volunteer or donate to The Food Basket, visit www.hawaiifoodbasket.org. According to the nonprofit, every $10 donated is the equivalent of five meals.

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