Food Drive Needs Volunteers

The Hawaii Foodbank Food Drive is this Saturday, and director of development Polly Kauahi says they are still looking for volunteers to work some of the sites: “We still need a lot of volunteers for the 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. shift on April 21 at Koko Marina Center, McCully Shopping Center, Pearl City Shopping Center and Town Center of Mililani.”

So if you and a few friends have some extra time to give to a great organization this Saturday, call 836-3600, ext. 239, or visit

I’ve been part of it for more than two decades now. Why do I do it year after year after year? It’s pretty simple. Thousands of local people need our help. Hawaii may be paradise, but it’s hell for those who are hanging by a thread. There are plenty of them, and their numbers are growing. I see evidence of this every time I visit a food distribution site.

As I was starting this column, a new report came out from the Hawaii Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice. It confirmed what we’ve been seeing at Hawaii Foodbank: It’s tough to make it in Hawaii, and things are getting worse for a lot of people.

Here’s what Victor Geminiani of the Center said in his release:

* Hawaii has the third-highest homelessness rate among the states, with an increase of 11 percent between 2010 and 2011.

* Hawaii’s housing costs are the highest in the nation. Our median rent is 50 percent more than the national rate. And 75 percent of our low-income households spend more than half of their income on rent.

* Between 2008 and 2010, the need for benefits spiked, with a 13 percent increase in families receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. The number of people receiving state medical assistance jumped 22 percent. And applications to federally qualified health centers increased 62 percent.

* And finally, enrollment in SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) has increased by 39 percent since 2007, while 15 percent of our households don’t always know how they’ll get their next meal.

* What’s really alarming is that, according to the report, while the plight of families is getting worse, the social safety net has been steadily eroding. The report says many social-service organizations have had budgets reduced by 18.5 percent and staffs cut by 16 percent.

That’s why we do it. Hawaii Foodbank is a steady presence in our islands and a friend to so many in need.