Kauaians give to best spring food drive ever

NAWILIWILI — Putting the finishing touches on the best spring food drive ever are Kauai Food Bank officials.

As of yesterday, over $59,000 was raised, and 22,372 pounds of food donated. The goals were $20,000 and 20,000 pounds of food.

Matching donations of $10,000 each from Larry Bowman’s Falko Partners and John Ferry’s Coldwell Banker Bali Hai Realty pushed the cash collections to the record high, said Judy Lenthall, Kauai Food Bank executive director.

“Unreal. This food drive was awesome,” said Kelvin Moniz, Kauai Food Bank operations manager, as he worked the phone on his desk yesterday to make sure everything is in place for the May 13 annual U.S. Postal Service Letter Carriers Food Drive.

For that event, people need only leave non-perishable food items in bags or boxes near their home or business mailboxes. Carriers will deliver the goods to the Kauai Food Bank.

Though the official end of the Kauai Food Bank spring food and fund drive was the end of last month, there are still donations of food and money trickling in, Moniz said.

“It was the best of times and the worst of times,” Lenthall said, about the best spring food drive results ever, contrasted by the deadly floods and weather-related disasters that sent Kauai Food Bank officials into disaster-meal-delivery mode in March.

While 22,372 pounds of food were donated during the spring food and fund drive, 51,456 pounds of food went out of the Kauai Food Bank warehouse in Nawiliwili in March alone, with 17,000 pounds of food distributed to feed disaster-response workers and others with disaster-related food needs, Lenthall explained.

On average, last year, food bank officials and volunteers distributed 68,514 pounds of food a month, or around 30,000 pounds of food a month not counting the Senior Produce program distributions, she said.

And when Kauaians donate food to the cause, the food is high-quality, she explained.

“This is the most pounds I think we have ever received in any spring food drive before,” said Lenthall, indicating she might up the goals to $25,000 and 25,000 pounds of food for next spring’s drive.

Last year’s spring food and fund drive netted 21,736 pounds of food, which at that time was a record too, she said.

Lots of people gave money instead of food, she thinks because of the torrential rains of February and March. “We’ve never seen anything like this before. And, besides, we were empty.”

Because for every dollar donation food bank officials can purchase $7 worth of food (down from $16 due to inflation and other factors), the money donated in the spring food and fund drive will allow food bank leaders to purchase food worth $413,413, she continued.

“It’s still good. It’s very good.”

But to give people an indication of the kinds of expenses she’s dealing with, expenses that she can’t write grants to cover, the 2005 rent on the Nawiliwili facility was $25,000, the electric bills came to $31,808, and workers’-compensation insurance premiums were $15,356.

“We can write grants for things like trucks, food, equipment,” but not for regular expenses like rent, utilities, and insurance, she said.

Donations big and small thrill Lenthall, she said, ecstatic about a food drive initiated by first-graders at Koloa School.

Akime Perreira, 6, a first-grader in Miss Negrillo’s class, heard about the need for food on KQNG, and organized a class food drive, Perreira said.

There are 17 students in her class, and 10 wrote letters. Perreira delivered the food to the Nawiliwili warehouse, and said she would like to work at the Kauai Food Bank when she grows up, maybe even as executive director.

“I have a succession plan,” Lenthall said with a laugh.

“I want to help all the people who need help on Kaua‘i, because they might thank me, and I would thank them, too. And, also, because they are hungry,” Perreira said.

“I told every student to donate so we can give to the food bank,” wrote Perreira. Some donated, some didn’t, some brought one item, and others brought several, she said.

“I had a lot of fun doing this class project. The poor people are going to be happy with the food,” Perreira wrote.

“I would want to donate to the food bank to help lots of hungry people on Kaua‘i,” wrote Nygel, one of Perreira’s classmates.

“I like to donate because people are in need and they need food,” wrote Tristen, another classmate.

“I donated canned goods to the food bank because I want to help the people that do not have food,” wrote Sean.

• Paul C. Curtis, associate editor, may be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 224) or pcurtis@kauaipubco.com.

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