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Menehune Holiday Food Drive returns

Updated: 
December 13, 2013 - 12:03pm

Got an extra can of Spam, a bag of rice or a few bucks to spare this holiday season? Why not help your Big Island neighbors by donating to the Menehune Holiday Food Drive.

The Kona, Kona Mauka, Kona Sunrise and North Hawaii Rotary clubs, assisted by several other entities and volunteer firefighters, will collect food and donations Saturday for The Food Basket, the island’s nonprofit food bank. Volunteers will collect contributions at area supermarkets as well as during the annual Kailua-Kona Christmas Parade.

The goal is to collect 12,000 pounds of nonperishable items and $12,000 in donations to equate to an estimated 40,000 pounds of food to feed hungry members of the Big Island community, said Kailua-Kona Community Parade Association Chairman Clifford Kopp, who is also a Rotarian. This is the second year for the holiday food drive. In 2012, $18,000 was raised and $8,000 pounds of food collected.

“Every little bit helps and even if you think it is insignificant, you can make a significant impact,” said Food Basket Executive Director En Young. “We’re not out there to pressure everybody to give — we want people to make comfortable contributions.”

So far this year, the food bank has distributed 1.5 million pounds of food to the Big Island’s hungry, said Young, who has been at the helm of the food bank since February. In 2012, it distributed a total of 1.7 million pounds of food.

“We’re pretty easily going to surpass last year,” he said.

The increase in food being provided to the island likely cannot be attributed to one cause, but to several, Young said. He listed off more people being hungry, improved outreach by the food bank and other service providers or an increase in the number of people who simply know the food bank is available to them as possible contributing factors to the expected increase in pounds of food provided.

Young anticipates with the food collected during the Menehune Food Drive, the Food Basket’s shelves will remain stocked through about March. The food drive is the largest held during the month of December, he added

Among the most-needed items are high-protein nonperishable items including beans, Spam, chicken, tuna, Vienna sausage, soup, chili, stew, powdered milk and peanut butter. Other suggested items include pasta, rice, tomato sauce, juice, breakfast cereal, infant formula, baby foods, granola bars, vegetables and fruits, jellies, granola bars and macaroni and cheese.

Young suggested calling the food bank before making a contribution — whether during Saturday’s event or any day of the year — to see just what it needs. Having too much of one item — and finding room to store it with the limited warehouse space — can be counterproductive, he said.

“The most important thing to do in any food drive is to call the Food Basket,” said Young, noting that right now the needed items are canned protein and fruit as well as ready-made meals such as canned soups and stews. “We have a computerized inventory that we can pull up and say ‘this is what we’re low on right now.’”

From 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dec. 14, donations can be made at any of nine locations in West Hawaii before the volunteers head to downtown Kailua-Kona. There, they will join the food bank, parade participants and Tommy “Kahikina” Ching and LT Smooth &Friends to collect more nonperishable food and donations at the 29th annual Kailua-Kona Christmas Parade. Donations can be dropped off at any announcing station, as well as with The Food Basket’s float during the parade, which will feature volunteers pushing shopping carts and carrying nets.

Parade entrants are also supporting the drive with community entries having $25 of their entry fee donated directly to the food bank, Kopp said.

The parade will start at 5 p.m. and meander 1.2 miles from Kekuaokalani Gymnasium to Coconut Grove Marketplace. It will feature nearly 80 entries comprising 2,000 people, Kopp said. Several of the entries have more than 100 people involved. Many are lit and feature music.

The parade’s Grand Marshal this year is Jerry Tracy, artistic director at the Aloha Performing Arts Company for the past 21 years. Tracy, who moved from Missouri to Hawaii in 1974, has directed many APAC productions. He also teaches, “Tuesday Troopers,” a performance skills class for children ages 8 to 12 at the Aloha Theatre in Kainaliu.

Tracy will appear in the parade as Mark Twain, whom he played in the recent one-man show “Mark Twain Rides Again” at Aloha Theatre in November.

For more information on the parade and food drive, visit paradesinkona.com.

For more information on The Food Basket, or to donate, visit foodbaskethi.org or call 933-6030 in Hilo or 322-1418 in Kona.

Here are the nine locations, in addition to the parade, where volunteers will collect nonperishable foods and donations:

Choice Mart in Captain Cook

KTA locations in Keauhou, Kailua-Kona and Waimea

Matsuyama Food Mart on Mamalahoa Highway

Matsuyama Market on Queen Kaahumanu Highway

Safeway in Kailua-Kona

Sack N Save in Kailua-Kona

Waikoloa Village Market in Waikoloa

Foodland in Waimea