Hawaii Meals Financial institution serves 80,000 individuals a month throughout the pandemic

HILO – A food bank on the Island of Hawaii has expanded its services significantly since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, serving up to 80,000 people a month.

The Food Basket was helping about 14,000 people a month last year at the time, the Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported on Wednesday.

Executive Director Kristin Frost Albrecht said the group helps residents through a network of partner agencies and programs.

The food basket serves between 2,000 and 3,700 people at each of its locations on the Big Island, 80 to 85% of whom are unemployed, said Albrecht.

People have to register and qualify for the program, which typically delivers them 40-pound boxes of groceries every month, Albrecht said.

The food basket was in crisis, said Albrecht.

“We’ve had hurricanes and lava in the last few years, but we haven’t had anything like that,” she said.

Ohana Food Drop, the organization’s premier pandemic program, began in March as a safe way to deliver food to people in need.

The food bank’s Kupuna Pantry, an older adult program operated in coordination with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, became a drive-through program in March and serves about 1,100 people, Albrecht said.

The high demand and difficulty in obtaining food from the Department of Agriculture’s temporary food relief program has resulted in the organization buying more food than ever before.

The organization spends between $ 350,000 and $ 450,000 a month on grocery shopping.

The Food Basket received $ 653,000 in federal coronavirus aid and $ 643,000 in community development block grants. Another $ 223,000 in grants is pending approval.

Albrecht said the organization was supported by numerous donations, including food donations from farmers. It owed the successful expansion of services to community support.

“It’s a significant change that sometimes takes our breath away, but we have adapted and that is the decisive factor,” said Albrecht. “We have adapted and the community has adapted with us.”

In most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, that go away within two to three weeks. In some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can lead to more severe illnesses, including pneumonia, and death.

The number of infections is believed to be far higher as many people have not been tested and studies suggest that people can become infected with the virus without feeling sick.

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