Feeding the need: More than 100,000 people fed via Ohana Food Drops

  • National Guardsmen distribute food at The Food Basket's Ohana Food Drop Thursday at Kekuaokalani Gym. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

  • National Guardsmen distribute food at The Food Basket's Ohana Food Drop Thursday at Kekuaokalani Gym. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

  • The National Guard distributes food at The Food Basket’s Ohana Food Drop Thursday at Kekuaokalani Gym. (Photos by Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

  • Autos line up Thursday at Kekuaokalani Gym for The Food Basket’s Ohana Food Drop.

  • National Guardsmen distribute food at The Food Basket’s Ohana Food Drop Thursday at Kekuaokalani Gym. (photos by Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

Vehicles lined up early, snaking around the block waiting to enter The Food Basket’s Ohana Food Drop Thursday at the Kekuaokalani Gymnasium parking lot in Kailua-Kona.

Based on the volume of traffic, the need for food is still great in the community.

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“We are delivering an important service to our community with limited resources,” said Leelen Park, COVID-19 emergency response project manager at The Food Basket.

Volunteers collected data from the families on new iPads obtained through a grant, including household size and number of households in a vehicle.

Park said the data is collected for reports that need to be submitted to the U.S. Department of Agriculture under their grant program, and the tablets expedite the process previously done by hand.

Even with grants, the island’s food bank is still feeling the financial crush the pandemic has wrought in the community.

Cash donations are needed to fill the gap. Park said donations can be made online, or may be mailed to locations in Kona or Hilo.

As cars lined up behind the gym, National Guard personnel opened trunks and filled them with food including produce, meat, rice, cereals and canned goods.

The Food Basket has been distributing food through the Ohana Food Drop 10 times a month to areas around the island since April, when the need became evident.

Park estimates The Food Basket has served more than 100,000 individuals, or 35,000 families, since the start of the program, spending between $300,000 and $400,000 per month purchasing food through local distributors.

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On Thursday, Kona warehouse manager Marshall Akamu brought 16 pallets of food, enough to feed 785 families, or over 3,600 individuals.

Akamu urges families and individuals still having trouble meeting their food needs to visit www.hawaiifoodbasket.org to see food pantry schedules. The schedule for food drops in Kona, Keaau, Hilo, Waimea, Pahoa, Naalehu, Honokaa, Kohala, Volcano and Waikoloa is also available on the website.

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