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Food & Dining // Table Talk
Jo McGarry

Joining The Fight Against Hunger

Gerald Shintaku of Kraft Foods (left) and Hawaii Foodbank’s Polly Kauahi at the Nov. 4 Kraft Check-Out Hunger kickoff | Jo McGarry photo

Gerald Shintaku of Kraft Foods (left) and Hawaii Foodbank’s Polly Kauahi at the Nov. 4 Kraft Check-Out Hunger kickoff | Jo McGarry photo

The smiles on the faces of Gerald Shintaku (Kraft Foods Hawaii) and Polly Kauahi (Hawaii Foodbank) at the Nov. 4 Kraft Check-Out Hunger kickoff this year hid what is probably the most urgent food bank crisis we’ve had in Hawaii in 20 years.

Coincidentally, Hawaii Foodbank is celebrating the 20th anniversary of its Check-Out Hunger campaign, but despite record-breaking donations, the current forecast is worrying.

Kauahi, director of development for Hawaii Foodbank, shared the latest inventory figures recently, along with her concern.

“In all the time I’ve been at the food bank, I don’t think I remember a time when the shelves have been so empty,” she laments.

Usually a low supply of food for Oahu is about 12-14 days’ worth. Right now, there’s less than six days worth of food in the warehouse.

But with giving at a record high (last year’s Check-Out Hunger campaign raised more than $230,000), how can supplies be so low?

“Many reasons factor in,” says Kauahi. “Monetary donations are high, but we have to buy so much more food than before. And the food that’s donated and bought is being shared with many more families than it used to be.

“For many working families, it’s just getting tougher to make it through to the end of the month, and no one is going to let their children go to bed hungry if they can help it, so the food bank has become a place where parents turn to get through those last few days of the month until payday.”

More than 35,000 children in Hawaii go to bed hungry each night, but as we head into the season of goodwill, that’s a statistic you and I can change. Through donations of canned goods (protein, soups and stews are high on the list of most-wanted items), neighborhood fund drives, cash donations and the Check-Out Hunger campaign, we can help fill the shelves at the food bank warehouse – even if it’s just one can of tuna or bag of rice at a time.

Hawaii Foodbank is assisted annually by a powerful partnership with Kraft Foods Hawaii (which kicked off this month’s drive with a $5,000 cash donation) and those green check-out coupons are a sign that the holidays are here – and that it’s time to turn our thoughts to giving.

Shintaku is modest about the positive effect Kraft Foods Hawaii’s involvement has had on the food bank campaign.

“The fight against hunger goes on,” he says, “and as part of the community, we want people to know how easy it is to participate in giving back.”

And if you’re already wondering what to give this year as holiday gifts, why not tear off a bunch of those green check-out coupons the next time you’re in the grocery store and package them up as gifts? Telling friends you fed a child breakfast for a month or a family for a week in their name is a pretty powerful present.

For more information about giving to Hawaii Foodbank, go to hawaiifoodbank.org.

Happy giving!

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