Hawaii Foodbank employees Gaseli Sava'inaea, left, and Laita Saumalu pushed a breadcart Wednesday inside the foodbank's warehouse.

Grant aids food bank
in time of rising need

The failing economy and welfare
cuts have added to the demand

By Genevieve A. Suzuki

People picked up more food -- enough to fill more than 40 trucks with eight pallets each -- last year from the Hawaii Foodbank due to the failing economy and welfare cuts.

By July, the food bank distributed to various outreach agencies a total of 8.5 million pounds of food, an increase of 1.3 million pounds.

Polly Kauahi, the Hawaii Foodbank's director of fund development, said the increase can be attributed to the aftereffects of Sept. 11, Kauahi said. "At this time, we have not seen a decline in need post-Sept. 11."

Kauahi said 44 percent of the people who use the food bank's services are from working households and that less than half of needy families receive food stamp benefits.

"We're having to purchase a lot of food right now," Kauahi said. "We're not in the habit of having to purchase anywhere near the amount of food we're purchasing right now to keep up with the demand."

That's one of the reasons the Alexander & Baldwin Foundation donated $35,000 to the Hawaii Foodbank. A&B Foundation President Allen Doane presented the check to the food bank Aug. 27.

The Hawaii Foodbank donation is one of four grants totaling $100,000 A&B has provided to different organizations for emergency food assistance. The Maui, Kauai and Big Island food banks also received money.

The funding comes from A&B Foundation's Manawalea program, established to assist people who have been affected by unemployment or under-employment, said Linda Howe, the A&B Foundation vice president and A&B community relations manager.

In May, the program gave $150,000 to agencies that help people pay rent or mortgages, such as Maui Economic Opportunity, Kauai Economic Opportunity, the Salvation Army and the Big Island's Office of Social Ministry.

"We were looking at the basics," Howe said. "People need a roof over their heads, and they need food."

Some 44 percent of the people who need the Hawaii Foodbank constantly choose between paying the rent and buying food, according to a 2001 Hunger in America survey taken before Sept. 11.

The Hawaii Foodbank plans to use the donation to purchase different food products, Kauahi said.

"One dollar allows us to distribute over $20 worth of food retail value," Kauahi said.

Kauahi said the most pressing need for the food bank is in the protein or ready-to-eat meal areas. Vienna sausages, Spam and canned tuna are good donations, Kauahi said.

About 240,000 people in Hawaii don't know where they will get their next meal, according to a 1999 Health Department survey.

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