PRINCEVILLE — The Church of the Pacific’s all-volunteer outreach mission on Kapaka Road in Princeville will continue to manage two weekly pantry lines, one in Princeville and one in Anahola.
This is made possible with a $101,186 Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act Grant from the county awarded in July.
“Participation has nearly tripled since the COVID-19 crisis began,” Food Pantry manager Ron Garrison said. “We are now distributing to 250-300 families, having nearly 500 individual members.”
Garrison said the Ho‘okipa Kauai Food Pantry is one of the oldest on Kaua‘i and has been running continuously since it was opened in 1997 as the North Shore Food Pantry.
“Due to the CARES Act and availability of other government funds, there are now a number of programs available or planned to help the newly unemployed and chronically unemployed cope, mentally, physically and strategically, but first, people have to be fed,” Garrison said.
He continued: “The exact number varies from week to week, as do our clients, and we expect it to continue rising as Federal unemployment and stimulus programs wane and eventually end.”
According to Garrison, the effort requires 3,000 to 4,000 pounds of food per week and 15 to 20 dedicated volunteers, who spend nearly all day every Wednesday, 52 weeks a year, moving, sorting, packaging, repackaging, displaying, and distributing food.
“Except for a temporary sanitation attendant, nobody is paid,” Garrison clarified. “We also run a semi-monthly distribution at the Kilauea Elementary School, when school is on-site and in session, and we grow vegetables to give away in a garden at our Princeville location.”
Garrison said their pantries operate as food distribution lines; they supply participants with fresh meat, eggs, dairy, bread, rice, vegetables, and fruit to supplement their weekly nutritional needs, plus snacks and drinks to satisfy their needs.
“In Princeville, we usually have participants leave our line with as much as food as they can carry,” Garrison said. “For those who are homebound or working, we have volunteers who deliver. We also provide soap, shampoo, lotion and conditioner for personal hygiene, some pet food, and have bulk hand sanitizer for clients to fill their personal containers.
According to Garrison, in 2020, the pantry was renamed to reemphasize its mission: Ho‘okipa is the Hawaiian value of hospitality and complete giving, selflessly extended to guests and strangers alike.
“Our goal is not just to prevent the truly needy from starvation,” Garrison said. “We want to, respectfully, help provide a baseline of nutrition and cleanliness for all clients, whatever their situation, so that they can then concentrate on improvement in their own lives, mentally, physically, and spiritually.”
Although the church did not get the amount they requested for, they will be using the current funds from July of 2020 to the end of the year to purchase a cargo van, equipment, and a storage building to upgrade their ability to move, store, and grow larger quantities of food, replace equipment and facilities degraded by age and excessive use.
Other purchases include hiring a temporary sanitization attendant, purchase personal protective equipment, and other supplies needed for social distancing and sanitation.
In the past years, the Church of the Pacific has relied on a program grant from the G. N. Wilcox Trust to support food purchases.
“We could not have operated without them,” Garrison said. “We have also received support from the Weinberg Foundation and the Dora R. Isenberg Fund. We work extensively with the Hawaii Foodbank, Kauai to obtain food and supplement with food purchased from Wal-Mart and Y Hata &Co., Ltd. “
Garrison said they sometimes partner with other North Shore pantries in temporary distribution matters.
“Otherwise we will be working with local vendors of the equipment we will purchase,” Garrison said.
The church said the pantries are a major benefit to 250-300 families on the North Shore, and they will have 32 volunteers to help from time to time.
The program expects to have volunteers’ work around 90-110 volunteer hours per week, totaling 2,430 to 2,970 hours of service from July to December based on their prior data from past distributions.
Garrison said they were often moving food in the rain and their facilities were quickly degrading, so when they found out they were receiving the grant, they were extremely appreciative.
“When it comes to feeding an undernourished portion of a community, food pantries and soup kitchens may not be flashy, convenient, or sexy, but they are where the rubber meets the road,” Garrison said.
Garrison said they were there many years helping their community before COVID-19 and will continue to do so even when the crisis is over and after the temporary box and meal programs are gone.
“We genuinely appreciate the County’s recognition of our work and willingness to invest heavily in the ongoing effort,” Garrison said.
Stephanie Shinno, features, education, business, and community reporter can be reached at 245-0424 or firstname.lastname@example.org.