JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Ute Huelse of HMSA's Community Relations Department sorted canned goods for HMSA's Annual Hawaii Food Bank Drive yesterday as colleague Robin Isosaki looked on. HMSA employees donated $15,300 and 7,756 pounds of nonperishable food items for the drive.
Food bank supplies run low
An increase in demand from cash-strapped families has put the pinch on at least two food banks in Hawaii.
Here are some of the places on Oahu that are accepting canned food donations for the Hawaii Foodbank:
» Ruby Tuesday Restaurants
The following are accepting cash donations:
» Times Super Markets
The Hawaii Foodbank on Oahu and the Maui Food Bank are experiencing shortages on their shelves, mirroring a nationwide problem.
"We have less food to give away, and there is a higher demand," said Richard Yust, executive director of the Maui Food Bank.
The Hawaii Foodbank, which supplies 270 agencies on Oahu that include Child & Family Services, the Institute for Human Services and the River of Life Mission, has about a two-week supply of food, said Polly Kauahi, director of development.
The shortage is not critical, Kauahi said, because daily donations continue to stream in through community food drives. But she said she would feel more comfortable with a month's supply of food on hand.
"We definitely want to get out of the teens and into the 20-plus days of food," she said.
Food charities around the country are reporting similar squeezes.
"We have food banks in virtually every city in the country, and what we are hearing is that they are all facing severe shortages with demand so high," Ross Fraser, a spokesman for America's Second Harvest -- the Nation's Food Bank Network, the nation's largest hunger relief group, said Friday.
More than 35.5 million people in the United States were hungry in 2006, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's annual survey, released Wednesday. While that number was about the same as the previous year, heads of food banks and pantries say many more people are turning to them for assistance.
Kauahi said in the past several months, families have either come in earlier in the month or more than once a month for food so they can feed their family and use their money for other resources. She attributed the frequent visits to higher costs in rent, gas and utilities.
About 32 percent of 130,000 people statewide that receive assistance from food banks are forced to make the decision whether to pay rent or purchase food, Kauahi added.
For fiscal year 2007 the Hawaii Foodbank distributed 7.9 million pounds of food on Oahu, compared with 8.4 million pounds of food in the previous year. Due to an increased demand, the organization hopes to distribute 8.5 million to 9 million pounds of food in fiscal 2008.
Kauahi said they generally experience a lull in food donations soon after the holiday season ends. The Hawaii Foodbank plans to hold its annual food drive from January through April.
During the past 18 months, the Maui Food Bank has noticed an increased demand among working families and seniors turning to them for help, said Yust. With Hawaii's high cost of living, people are strapped after meeting the basic necessities, he said.
He also attributed the food shortage to high freight surcharges, causing retailers to scale back on purchases. "They're not buying the quantities that they used to purchase," Yust said.
The Maui Food Bank supplies about 75 agencies with food and distributed about 1.2 million pounds in fiscal year 2007, up from about 1 million the previous year.
Yust also said a drop in donations prompted the organization to purchase food.
He expects donations to pick up with a campaign that just kicked off.
"But that just covers the immediate need," he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.