CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Hawaii Foodbank operations manager Brett Schlemmer displayed some of the food stored in the Foodbank's warehouse on Tuesday. Schlemmer said foodbank donations have not kept up with a surge in demand for food.
Hawaii Foodbank operations manager Brett Schlemmer is crossing his fingers that 40,000 pounds of turkey will arrive in time to feed 8,000 needy families on Thanksgiving.
Foodbank holds hope
for holiday turkeys
The birds are on their way but officials
are unsure if they'll arrive before Thanksgiving
By Pat Gee
This is the first year the food bank thought it would be able to provide turkey through a federal program, administered by the state Office of Community Services.
But Schlemmer has run into gobbledygook trying to track the whereabouts of the turkey, which are coming from the mainland.
Dennis Doi, a program specialist with the Office of Community Services, said he ordered the turkey three months ago from the Temporary Emergency Food Assistance Program under the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Delivery was first scheduled for Oct. 15, then pushed back to Nov. 15, he was told a month ago. The container should have sailed on Nov. 20, but the Foodbank hasn't heard yet if the container is on the ship, Schlemmer said.
"Congress was kind enough to make additional money available to the states. And I thought turkey would be a nice thing," Doi said.
Doi said it can take three to five months for an order from the USDA program to arrive, citing bureaucratic red tape, and taking into account the cross-country shipping time and complications along the way.
If the container doesn't arrive in time for Thanksgiving, the turkey will be distributed later -- "Christmas is right around the corner," he added.
Just to make sure the needy families would have some kind of Thanksgiving bird, Schlemmer said he ordered about 40,000 pounds of chicken with a $20,000 grant from the Robert F. Lange Foundation. The chicken should arrive early next week.
"The demand for food goes up during the holidays, and a higher demand for quality food," Schlemmer said.
The food bank, unbeknownst to many, is not a pantry where people in need come to pick up food. "We are a food safety net; we collect as much food as possible that would have been thrown away," clean it up and organize it, and distribute it to 240 agencies.
While he does not have a "direct link" to the people in need, his job "gives me a tremendous sense of satisfaction. I feel good about what I'm doing ... knowing that the food goes where it is needed."
The food bank has been working with the Office of Community Services on getting the turkeys for needy families as a special treat, he said.
With 20 percent increase in demand for food this year following the Sept. 11 attacks and economic downturn, donations to the food bank have not been coming in to keep up with the surge in demand, he said.
To help the food bank restock its pantries, it is holding its 9th Annual Check-Out Hunger campaign tomorrow through January in partnership with all Safeway Food & Drug stores, Times Super Markets, Tamura's Waianae and Wahiawa.
Just look for the bright green tear-off tags at the checkout stand and give it to the cashier to make a $1 or $5 contribution, which will be added to your grocery bill.
The food bank is able to leverage your $1 to distribute $20 worth of food; and $5 will distribute $100 worth of food.
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