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Shelves bare at Kauai Food Bank

NAWILIWILI — To the untrained eye, the shelves at the Kauai Food Bank warehouse in Nawiliwili don’t look empty.

Then, Kauai Food Bank Executive Director Judith “Judy” Lenthall starts counting all of the spaces where pallets of food should be, and gets up to 24.

She estimates that a full 40 percent of the warehouse space for food is empty, the result of a combination of higher-than-normal demand for food, lower-than-anticipated levels of donations, and the unexpected detour of having to feed disaster-relief workers in the wake of the March floods.

“It’s a double whammy.

“We don’t want any more disasters, because we’re not in a position to respond any more, and that’s not good,” she said.

“The cupboards are bare, said old mother Hubbard,” and that’s “not so good,” she said.

“We distributed a lot more food in March than normal, and precious little food coming in,” she said yesterday.

Rain kept people from getting out and donating, and those who depend on warm, sunny weather to work were out of work most of last month, she explained.

“Abysmal.” People can’t get out to go to the fire stations to donate food with all the rain.

Construction workers don’t work in the rain, boaters (commercial and tour) don’t go out in the rain.

“It hits you in the pocket-book when you’re (working in) weather-related jobs,” she said.

And, so, halfway through the annual spring food and fund drive, with goals of raising $20,000 and receiving 20,000 pounds of food, as of Friday food-bank officials had received only 3,547 pounds of food, she said.

Most of the food donations came in during a period in early March when Ron Wiley and Marc Valentin of KONG Radio Group did their annual food-drive challenge, with each on-air personality trying to solicit more food donations than the other, she said.

The cash donations of $10,015 through Friday include matching gifts from Larry Bowman’s Falko Partners. He has once again pledged to match cash pledges dollar for dollar up to $10,000, Lenthall said.

So far, it is the “worst food drive ever, on the heels of total disaster, and it’s because people couldn’t get out of their house,” she said.

The March floods diverted staff, volunteer and food resources from the hungry to those responding to the crisis, she added. “We fed a lot of disaster workers, without question,” on “pure faith. Somebody needs something, then you respond.

“Nobody pays us to do disaster feedings,” she observed.

Representatives of hotels and restaurants helped out, too, she said.

Asked about the possibility of extending the spring food and fund drive deadline, Lenthall said that isn’t really an option, because she wants the Kauai Food Bank drive to be done before the May 13 U.S. Postal Service letter-carrier food collection drive.

“We’re kind of running back to back with food drives.”

There is one day, April 22, when the worst food drive ever could become a not-so-bad food drive, if donors and volunteers turn out at five sites across the island between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. to donate, she said.

“That’s the day that we could make up for all of this,” said Lenthall, hoping that, when people realize the situation, they’ll realize they simply forgot to make the time and effort to donate to help feed the island’s hungry residents.

Over 130 volunteers are needed to help that day, she added. For more information, call 246-3809.

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