Several thousand people struggling through the mire of conditions created by COVID-19 were warmed by hot meals, food packages and warm smiles as another week wrapped up Friday afternoon at the Kaua‘i Independent Food Bank warehouse in Nawiliwili.
“I have to leave early,” said Kelvin Moniz, KIFB executive director Friday while joining the ranks of volunteers from the Sheraton Kaua‘i Resort, the Hawai‘i Lodging &Tourism Association Kaua‘i Chapter, The Shops at Kukui‘ula and the Kaua‘i Down Under Dive Team in serving up more than 2,000 chili macaroni to-go plates in a drive-thru, no-contact format that saw every available lunch distributed for the second time it was offered.
“I have these people coming in from the Westside with a contribution,” Moniz said. “They’ve been coming for the past several weeks.”
Those people included Jo Evans and Julie Gardner, partners in a new venture, Foto4Food, where the pair donates family portraits on location in a social-distancing, contactless setting in exchange for contributions — whatever the client feels comfortable to donate — to the food bank.
“We’ve done some (high school) graduates,” Evans said. “And we have more appointments. It’s just that Fridays are when we designate our deliveries of contribution to the food bank. This is the third, and busiest, week we’ve had since starting on May 1.”
Foto4Food rolled into the Nawiliwili warehouse with 300 pounds of food and $1,530 in monetary contributions that will be used to replenish food stocks from the massive feeding effort that last week included employers of closed resorts providing meals and food packages for their furloughed associates.
Earlier in the week, KIFB, coming off a joint County of Kaua‘i food distribution with the Hawai‘i Foodbank Kaua‘i Branch last Saturday at Vidinha Stadium where 500 food packages were distributed to a long line of cars containing people with verified need, Moniz and his KIFB ‘ohana, including board members, started their week by moving more than 600 food packages and helping with the preparation of more than 3,500 nutritious, hot meals to families of associates from resorts shut down by COVID-19.
“I have to get back to cook with chef Guy Higa,” said Paul Toner, general manager of the Kaua‘i Marriott Resort &Beach Club that served up more than 1,500 hot meals (each associate was allowed a maximum of six plates) and more than 350 food packages Thursday. “We still have more beef stew to make, and we have to keep the line moving.”
The massive effort at the Kaua‘i Marriott spanned two shifts of pickups involving the efforts of volunteer groups like the East Kaua‘i Lions Clubs, the Rotary Club, the Zonta Clubs and more, Moniz said.
“We want to thank Kaua‘i’s credit unions, who came up with some of the bags we needed to package the food that included local hamburger, fresh fruit and produce, and nonperishable food like canned soup, dried pasta and other items that people can (use to) create their own meals in addition to the hot meal being served.”
Fueling the massive effort comes partially in the form of other COVID-19 relief efforts, as Johnny Gordines, president of the Kaua‘i County Farm Bureau, shopped through the approximately two dozen vendors set up at The Shops at Kukui‘ula pop-up market Wednesday in the shopping center’s mauka parking lot that was set up to accommodate patients at The Clinic at Po‘ipu.
“I’m taking inventory of what these farmers have available,” Gordines said. “We provided $5,000 grants to both the Hawai‘i Foodbank Kaua‘i Branch and the KIFB. These grants are help for the farmers who have product available after the county’s sunshine markets and the farm-bureau-partnered markets shut down after COVID-19 closed their site availability. We want the food effort to shop local and support our farmers who need help, too.”
Under terms of the grants, the food banks “shop” from lists of farmers provided by the farm bureau for their respective fruit and produce needs, accumulate the invoices to the grant’s maximum, and turn over the receipts to the farm bureau, which in turn make payment directly to the farmers.
“We’re just waiting until we can return to the common areas of the shopping center,” said Pillare Mukai, The Shops at Kukui‘ula assistant manager. “The first pop-up market we did was successful, with participation from not only the farmers, but the shops’ tenants, and now, we’ve added music, all in compliance with social-distancing, face masks, and safer-at-home rules.”
The shops’ pop-up market grew from the original Puhi Park Produce that was created by the Grove Farm Company to provide relief for more than 40 of its lessees who are farmers. Meeting twice a week, on Wednesday afternoons and Saturday mornings, the Puhi Park Produce shares several of its nearly 40 vendors with the shops’ pop-up market.
Stacie Chiba-Miguel, manager of The Shops at Kukui‘ula, has been at the heart of not only the pop-up market but the second community feeding at the Sheraton Kaua‘i Resort in Po‘ipu that exceeded the 2,000-meal goal Friday.
Chip Bahouth, Sheraton Kaua‘i Resort general manager, signed off on a $10,000 award to KIFB, presented by the Hawai‘i Lodging &Tourism Association Kaua‘i Branch from its COVID Relief Fund.
“It’s not over, yet,” Moniz said. “We have a lot more to do. I’m helping with the cooking when the Kaua‘i Pop Warner Football League offers its bento — more than 1,500 budgeted — Sunday (today) for keiki (18 years and younger) and kupuna that will be distributed at three sites — Hanapepe Neighborhood Center, the Grove Farm Industrial, and the Bryan J. Baptiste Memorial Sports Park — from 10 a.m. to noon (or until supplies run out).”