NAWILIWILI — Kelvin Moniz, executive director of the Kaua‘i Independent Food Bank, was on the road delivering Friday morning.
“We received phone calls for help from two schools on the Westside,” Moniz said. “The schools are closed, and the children need to get food. They really need the help.”
Moniz was doing the deliveries so other members of the KIFB staff could man the emergency food service that was established earlier this week, allowing people who need food to walk up and receive some sort of help. No one goes away empty-handed.
“We had a couple drive in from Hanalei because they said the pantries were closed,” said Leona Perez, KIFB programs manager. “They said they used all their gas for the week just to get to our Nawiliwili warehouse.”
Wes Perreira, the Hawai‘i Foodbank Kaua‘i branch manager, said almost all of their network of food pantries are back in operation.
“We have 36 pantry programs across the island, and all but one is open,” Perreira said.
“During the first week, everyone was scrambling trying to stay within the guidelines of the officials in this COVID-19 situation. They’re now open and in compliance with the current guidelines,” he said.
”We are addressing the needs of the pantry programs in the schools by sending out deliveries that will be distributed during the educational-materials drive through pickups.”
Both the KIFB and Hawai‘i Foodbank Kaua‘i branch offer walk-in service, although Perez said they would appreciate phone calls ahead of time to better prepare.
KIFB offers the pickup service Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. by calling ahead for their needs.
Hawai‘i Foodbank Kaua‘i branch maintains a monitor at the door, ensuring that everyone who enters the Puhi facility washes their hands, sanitizes, and dons a pair of gloves during the facility’s normal operating hours of 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays.
“This is for health,” said Jessica Espinoza, who maintains a supply of prepackaged emergency food nearby for those who simply pick up and go.
“No one is actually allowed inside. But if they do come in, it’s no more than two to four people so we stay in compliance with the social-distancing guidelines. We usually have something to carry people through without them coming in.”
Both food banks have been monitoring the COVID-19 situation on Kaua‘i and responding to the needs of the vulnerable populace that faces economic uncertainty through unemployment and other developments attributed to the coronavirus.
An empty grocery cart bearing a “Food donations welcomed” sign sat next to the gated KIFB facility Friday.
Moniz said KIFB was notified Thursday that they will be recipient of a $25,000 grant from The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation to support food distribution for the residents of Kaua‘i, and to help small farms provide produce to their communities.
“We very much appreciate this help,” Moniz said. “It allows us to give a little more to those who are hurting. As an example, in addition to the backpacks we delivered to the school, we had a little hamburger that will go a long way toward feeding families. This is not something we can do every day, but I’m sure the families welcome this extra help.”
The KIFB award is part of $4 million in emergency grant funding announced Thursday by The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation in response to the developing COVID-19 public-health crisis.
On March 19, the HEI Charitable Foundation that includes Hawaiian Electric, American Savings Bank and Pacific Current announced a $125,000 contribution that is shared by the Hawai‘i Foodbank ($50,000) and the United Way agencies ($75,000) in support of their efforts to assist Hawai‘i families in need during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our community is experiencing tremendous and increasing hardship, as social distancing has required extended closures and school breaks, reduced work hours, and even loss of jobs and benefits,” said Connie Lau, HEI president and CEO. “That is why we want to help the Hawai‘i Foodbank and United Way organizations that provide critical services to our community during these trying times. We hope our donation will inspire others to give if they are able to.”
Kaua‘i native Ron Mizutani, president and CEO of Hawai‘i Foodbank, welcomes the additional help.
“Hawai‘i Foodbank is extremely grateful for the generosity and support of the HEI Charitable Foundation,” he said.
“We are seeing an extreme rise in demand for food, and we are adjusting out food-distribution efforts to meet the complex realities of social distancing. It is times like these that our work together becomes even more visible to our community and, even more important, to those in need. Financial contributions go much further than food donations in moments like these, and HEI Charitable Foundation’s support will help distribution in hard-hit communities across Hawai‘i.”
Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or firstname.lastname@example.org.