HONOLULU — The state Office of Community Services released a statement Friday confirming it is ending its relationship with Kaua‘i Independent Food Bank to distribute U.S Department of Agriculture food on Kaua‘i.
“OCS must make the best use of the federal and state funds we receive,” OCS Executive Director Mila Kaahanui said in a press release. “Financial responsibility, compliance with federal regulations, relationships with the beneficiary communities and the ability to get the job done on time with the right resources are all important. We are keeping our options open and we will be meeting with several organizations and community leaders to help guide our decision making.”
OCS’ current memorandum of agreement with KIFB to distribute food provided through USDA’s The Emergency Food Assistance Program is set to expire Dec. 31.
OCS in late August informed KIFB of its decision to terminate the contract by December. The announcement came just two months after the ceremonial blessing of Hawai‘i Food Bank’s new competing location in Puhi. HFB returned to Kaua‘i last year after a 15-year hiatus.
“Hawai‘i Foodbank is the OCS-authorized distribution agency for TEFAP commodities on O‘ahu, but OCS has not yet entered into any MOA with Hawai‘i Foodbank for TEFAP distribution on Kaua‘i,” the release states.
However, En Young, OCS contract administrator, confirmed Friday that OCS has chosen HFB to distribute USDA food on Kaua‘i.
“Under federal regulations, OCS has the sole discretionary authority to designate the TEFAP distribution agencies in Hawai‘i,” the news release states. “Although food banks have historically been the primary TEFAP distributing agencies in Hawai‘i, some other types of non-profits are potentially eligible to fulfill this responsibility.”
Young said that in the past, it had provided the TEFAP food to Kaua‘i Economic Opportunity, but the agency did not have adequate distribution facilities.
The only other choice currently on island, Young said, is HFB.
The TEFAP provides an estimated 200,000 pounds of food to Kaua‘i annually and less than $5,000 in funding for the assigned agency.
KIFB is appealing OCS’ decision; however, OCS does not have an appeal process.
Young said, “Some of their contention was that some of the information we used to make our decision is erroneous.”
He said that if that’s true, KIFB needs to provide OCS with the necessary documentation — records that go back several years. Even with documentation, “there’s still the issue of USDA compliance,” he added.
When asked to specify the USDA compliance issue, Young said, “We don’t usually release that information. We don’t feel likes it’s our prerogative.” He did, however, offer that the decision is “really based on administrative cost, not wrongdoing.”