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Food Basket seeks donations, volunteers

The Food Basket, Hawaii Island’s food bank, is seeking the community’s help as it faces uncertain times providing food for the island’s hungry as the coronavirus pandemic continues.

The Kona warehouse, located at Ulu Wini in Kaloko, will no longer be accepting food donations from the public in response to COVID-19; however, the food bank is in need of monetary donations so it can continue to purchase nonperishable items from suppliers, said Marshall Akamu, West and North Hawaii operations manager. The warehouse site also will no longer accept walk-ins, instead working with current partner agencies to distribute food.

Under current conditions, Akamu estimates The Food Basket will run out of food by mid-April, but as the need grows it could be sooner.

“We need to purchase food so we can continue to supply our agencies,” he said.

Agencies include soup kitchens and food pantries that distribute directly to individuals. For a complete list of agencies and distribution times, visit www.hawaiifoodbasket.org.

Akamu said inquiries have been made requesting food to be delivered to those placed in quarantine and self isolation as the number of presumptive or positive COVID-19 cases is expected to climb. The agency is doing what it can to prepare for that situation should it arise.

Plans also are being made to deliver food to elderly housing and shut-ins, but without volunteers to make door-to-door dropoffs, the agency has no way to get the food to them, Akamu said. The Food Basket is also in need of paper bags and boxes to hold the food.

To make doorstep deliveries, not only for potential or confirmed coronavirus cases, but also for the island’s most vulnerable population, kupuna, the organization is in dire need of volunteers.

Jan Benlein is a resident of Hualalai Elderly Housing in Kona and is worried about her neighbors.

“We’re low income. We’re Seniors. We need help,” said Benlein.

She previously ran the nonprofit Auntie’s Angels that supplied her neighbors with food, but shut down the effort approximately 18 months ago because of her age and health concerns. But she feels an obligation to help her neighbors in this time of crisis.

“I have some of my old donors who are helping provide food for the shut-ins in our complex,” Benlein said. “We need to get food to those who need it.”

She encouraged anyone who wants to donate to the housing complex to make three boxes of food and drop them off at each of the three phases’ community centers.

“We do the best we can, but we’re in a panic state. I’m worried about our neighbors, especially those who don’t have a car and can’t get to the store,” she said.

For those who want more information about how to help, Benlein said she can be reached at 329-7897

Akamu said anyone in need of emergency food supplies is asked to contact The Food Basket at 933-6030.

For more information, including how to volunteer or donate to The Food Basket, visit www.hawaiifoodbasket.org. According to the nonprofit, every $10 donated is the equivalent of five meals.

Email Laura Ruminski at lruminski@westhawaiitoday.com.
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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