Hawaii Nonprofit Distributes Priceless Meals Help Amid COVID-19 Pandemic – Meals Tank
Aloha Harvest, a nonprofit based in Hawaii, is redirecting food that would otherwise be wasted to fight food insecurity during COVID-19.
About one in five Hawaiian residents is food unsafe, according to U.S. census data collected in July 2020. Since the pandemic began, more than 250,000 Hawaiian residents have registered unemployment, adding further to food insecurity.
Aloha Harvest receives a grant from ReFED, an organization that analyzes food waste solutions. The ReFED COVID-19 Food Waste Solutions Fund helps organizations meet the increased demand for food aid and reduce food waste during the pandemic.
“The ReFED grant helps us scale the impact of our mission,” Phil Acosta, executive director of Aloha Harvest, told Food Tank. “We can expand our staff and our fleet. Supporting our local economy by buying local products, fish, [and] Other goods; and expand our food rescue and distribution efforts. “
Aloha Harvest works directly with local farmers, ranchers, fishermen and traders to provide nutritious food to those in need in Hawaii. Staff and volunteers pick up excess food and distribute it to food banks and other food agencies.
Since the onset of COVID-19, Aloha Harvest has processed nearly three times the amount of food compared to that time last year, Acosta says. In order to meet the increased demand, they have increased their staff and expanded their work area to include a commercial kitchen and a warehouse with a drying and cooling room.
Acosta says the decline in tourism – a major employer for Hawaiian residents – has hit Hawaiian residents particularly hard. Thousands of hospitality workers have been unemployed for months and unemployment benefits are running out.
“The number of visitors to the islands has fallen to less than 10 percent than in previous years,” says Acosta. “Waikiki looks like a ghost town.”
The decline in tourists also affects food service and manufacturing, local agriculture and fishing, and real estate, Acosta says. And while some companies will eventually recover from that decline, there are concerns that other companies may never fully recover.
However, Acosta stresses that Aloha Harvest is committed to being part of the solution.
“We’re seeing more people, new people in need of food aid,” Acosta told Food Tank. “Aloha Harvest is committed to exploring ways to make better use of our scarce food resources and to be part of the solution to create a more resilient and sustainable food system.”
Photo courtesy Izabelle Acheson, Unsplash