LIHUE — Mayor Derek S.K. Kawakami was obviously disappointed and frustrated Wednesday morning while watching the collection of food come together at the Moikeha Building.
The collection benefits the Kauai Independent Food Bank’s Spring Healthy Food and Fund Drive conducted by the County of Kauai, its agencies and their employees.
“I’m not sugarcoating anything,” Kawakami said. “We could have, and should have, done better.”
Unofficial tallies from the scales weighing in the different drive results saw $1,161 in monetary contributions, 975 pounds of rice, and 1,079 pounds of other food for a total value of $3,254.
This was down from the 2018 totals of $1,960 in monetary contributions and 2,818 pounds of other food for a total value of $4,778.
“My family has been very fortunate because we haven’t been hungry,” Kawakami said. “Yes, I know what it feels like to be hungry, but not hungry in the way the people who need the food are hungry.”
The need is great.
A large percentage of Kauai’s school population is on free or reduced-priced meal plans. The KIFB serves nearly 6,500 keiki a year through its backpack program, offers more than 136,000 healthy snacks through the Keiki Cafe program, and feeds about 120 seniors each month through the kupuna program. There are more than 800 food requests through the Uluwehi Emergency Food Distribution program.
“But I have faith,” Kawakami said. “We are an island of doers.”
He said to look at the examples of people like Kadee Parubrub, who raises food for her birthday instead of accepting gifts.
“I’m holding people’s feet to the fire,” Kawakami said. “There are a lot of hungry people out there, and if anyone wants to complain, they need to step across the line and be a part of the solution.”
The Department of Water finished first in the county’s in-house competition, raising $40, some 645 pounds of rice and 24 pounds of other food for a total value of $709, a decrease from its 2018 value of $1,306.
The Mayor’s Office finished second with $271 total value, a decrease from its 2018 value of $825.
Third place belongs to the Transportation Agency, which ended with a value of $264, an increase from its 2018 value of $117.
KIFB’s spring drive, with a goal of $45,000 and 45,000 pounds of food, continues through the end of this month. People wishing to contribute may drop off food at any fire station or the KIFB facility in Nawiliwili.
“I’m proud that we have partners like the Kauai Independent Food Bank that can help us get the food out and take care of this,” the mayor said.
Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or firstname.lastname@example.org.