What is your company’s role in Hawaii’s grocery chain, including local produce?
HFA is locally owned and one of the largest government providers of perishable food. We own and operate Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) -compliant warehouse and distribution facilities in Oahu, Maui, Kauai, Big Island and Long Beach, California. We specialize in sea and air freight with perishable food.
HFA represents and sells more than 20 local manufacturers on the islands. We are also the state’s largest distributor of local eggs and local beef in all of the islands. We are committed to providing our comprehensive food distribution and food safety platforms for all locally made products and actively investing in expansion in these areas.
What has gone into coordinating the free food distributions you have been involved in and what lessons have you learned that may be applicable to future endeavors?
HFA has been running food sales promotions for several years. Our first emergency size distribution came after Hurricane Iselle hit the Puna area of the Big Island. After the hurricane, we were first on the ground and coordinated directly with the National Guard to provide food, water and ice to those affected by the hurricane and the blackout.
Last April we donated all the food and milk for the event in Ala Moana on the Saturday before Easter. At the time, it was the largest food distribution event in Hawaiian history, with a line of cars over two miles long as people lined up for food. The Salvation Army of Hawaii Volunteer Organizations Active in Disasters (VOAD) and the State Department of Emergency Management (DEM) have assisted with traffic management and provided the volunteers necessary to distribute this amount of food.
We are currently working with the city and the Hawaii Community Foundation (HCF) to coordinate the bi-weekly food distribution events. These started in April and should last until May. These events serve 4,000 families per event.
Our history and experience of large-scale food distribution prepared us for these larger events. However, partnering with large organizations like the Hawaii Food Bank, DEM, VOAD, the Honolulu Police Department, and the Hawaii Farm Bureau is clearly the only way to do something this size over a long period of time.
It is a humbling experience to work with the great leadership, staff and great volunteers in these organizations. We usually have 20 or more of our own HFA team members at these events taking care of the refrigerated trucks and logistics. The love, respect, commitment and care for others shown by everyone involved at these events is incredible.
Who pays for all the food?
The city’s food distribution events / HCF (Aloha Stadium, Leeward Community College, Waipio Soccer Complex) are sponsored with a city grant of $ 1 million. The Bank of Hawaii Foundation gave HCF an equivalent of $ 1 million, which equates to a $ 2 million budget for groceries for this series of distributions.
The US Department of Agriculture has just awarded several contracts to local companies to provide food to nonprofits as well. Most of these were for products and dairy products made available to nonprofits that serve those in need.
First Hawaiian Bank just made a large donation and is working with Aloha Harvest to distribute food.
Stephanie and I also donate milk, eggs, products and ramen to a variety of food distributions across the islands.
In the near future, should Hawaiian residents be concerned that certain foods, especially meat, could be reduced significantly? Why or why not?
In general, the food supply is in good condition. The hoarding that happened early has subsided and grocers, clubs and retailers are slowly rebuilding their inventories. While beef faces challenges in parts of the country, we’re excited about Hawaii’s planned expansion of local beef production here in the state.
What are the weaknesses in Hawaii’s food distribution chain and how can they be sustained?
Hawaii’s total lack of supplies of basic food, water and medical supplies for any disaster, whether pandemic or natural, should be one of the greatest concerns and calls to action of our leaders. Hawaii must be serious about building supplies of food, water, and medical supplies. Hoping that we will not be hit by a hurricane or tsunami is not a strategy – it is irresponsible and endangers our entire population.
THE BIO FILE
>> Title: Owner, Hawaii Foodservice Alliance LLC and HFA Logistics LLC
>> Years in business: Founding of HFA in 2002
>> Family: Stephanie (wife) and five children
>> Church work: Largest single donor to Hawaii Foodbank with in-kind donations exceeding $ 2 million annually for several consecutive years.
>> One more thought: I moved to Hawaii as a teenager on a one-way ticket – alone. I am passionate about distributing food to those in need, having learned firsthand that I am in need with no systems in place to fall back on. As a teenage father who had three jobs trying to put food on the table, I went through adversity and fear of not serving those who depend on me. When I see the faces in the cars at these food distributions, I recognize and remember the fear and emotions these families experience.