The Food Basket, Hawai’i Island’s Food Bank, has experienced an exponential demand for food assistance due to the COVID-19 pandemic. More so than in previous disasters, including the Kilauea Volcano eruption. Many are first-time recipients looking for critical help after they were laid off or furloughed. In addition, with schools closed, many families who relied on free or reduced school breakfasts and lunches to keep their children fed faced an even greater need.
Utilizing CARES Act funding, the Food Basket implemented a new, low contact, food drive-through. The ‘Ohana (a Hawaiian term meaning ‘family’) Food Drop Program has 11 stations located at county parks and schools, serving up to 3500 people a day.
New to purchasing food directly from the local grower, The Food Basket formed new partnerships to make the food access system work. They purchased ‘Ulu or breadfruit which has been a Hawaiian food staple for a thousand years and a superfood from a local co-op of small-scale farmers. They also purchased beef, pork and chicken from the Hawaii Farm Bureau, milk from a local food service distributor and fish from local fishermen.