Members of Halau Kala’akeakauikawekiu dance for the crowd at the 2012 Kona Christmas Parade Saturday evening. (Laura Shimabuku/Special to West Hawaii Today)
The shelves at The Food Basket Inc. are filling as food collected from the inaugural Menehune Holiday Food Drive began arriving Monday at its warehouses.
Rotarian and Kailua-Kona Community Parade Association Chairman Cliff Kopp estimated the unique one-day event generated between 10,000 and 15,000 pounds of food. Deliveries were still in progress and the total weight of all donated food items collected was unavailable as of press time.
The generosity of residents and visitors was also evident by the monetary contributions collected during this unique food drive, held Dec. 15 in conjunction with the 28th annual Kailua-Kona Christmas Parade. The island’s only food bank will receive $22,500, which provides the nonprofit with the buying power for roughly 45,000 pounds of food, Kopp said.
The Food Basket is an islandwide supplemental food network that collects and distributes nutritious, high-quality food to low-income households, the working poor, people with disabilities, the ill, senior citizens and children. In 2011, the nonprofit reported a 42 percent increase in the number of people who accessed its distribution points.
In the first three quarters of this year, The Food Basket served 47,542 individuals, said Executive Director Nani Lee.
“We know the quarter ending in December will reflect an even greater increase,” she said. “We welcome and encourage the community to support our efforts. Collectively, we can make a difference on our island.”
While the demand for food remains, the call for help is continuous and there’s a deep rate of food insecurity, Kopp said, adding the Big Island has another important distinction: “We have the community willing to help with the need.”
The Menehune Holiday Food Drive was “a perfect cooperative project for the West Hawaii Rotary Clubs,” said Bill Cliff, assistant district governor for the Rotary Clubs of West Hawaii. He said, “All of this year’s club presidents were looking for a cooperative project that met a real humanitarian and community need and could possibly be repeated in future years.”
Rotary Club of Kona Sunrise President Barbara Kossow said her club was main organizer of the Menehune Holiday Food Drive and the event met the Rotary District’s challenge, which urged all 48 clubs statewide do a food drive. Kona, Kona Mauka, Kona Sunrise and North Hawaii Rotary clubs participated, and Rotarians have expressed their desire to stage the Menehune Holiday Food Drive annually. Kossow called the first event “a huge success.” She promised it will only get better each year as more partnerships are formed and volunteers are added.
Also key to the effort were Royal Hawaiian Movers, Hawaii Volunteer Fire Department No. 7 Bravo, Windermere Real Estate, 11 supermarkets, six corporate sponsors, 77 parade entrants and the public. More than 100 volunteers contributed by helping collect food and funds at various West Hawaii sites and during the parade, Kopp said.
Parade entrants, comprising of nearly 2,000 people, supported the drive with community entries “paying” a 20-pound bag of rice and commercial and political entries having $25 of their $75 entry fee being donated directly to The Food Basket. These groups also started their own food drives, Kossow said. “(The event) took on a life of its own and just blossomed,” she added.
Royal Hawaiian Movers “relishes all opportunities to help support the communities its employees live and work in.”
More than a dozen employees participated in the event, collecting food along the parade route and from various sites, as well as delivering donations to The Food Basket’s warehouses, said Tad Allies, general manager of the company’s Kailua-Kona Branch.
“Around the holidays, attention usually turns to those who are struggling, are in need and have fallen on hard times. But hunger doesn’t only happen during the holidays; unfortunately, it’s an ongoing problem,” Allies said.
Former County Councilman and Rotarian Pete Hoffmann said a major accomplishment of the event was helping bring hunger awareness to the forefront of people’s minds and helping prompt change. No deed or donation is too small and can make a tremendous difference to someone in need, he added.
Hoffmann said monetary donations will likely help sustain residents in need in February, March and April, the typical time when the surge of contributions during the winter holiday season tend to subside.
Lee expressed gratitude to the Rotarians and “the tremendous effort” they engaged in to collect donations throughout West Hawaii. She also said supporters such as Royal Hawaiian Movers and others who continue to commit to eliminating hunger on the island never cease to amaze her.