Hawaii poverty rate reflected in food demand

Linda Lee
Linda Lee
Polly Kauahi
Polly Kauahi
Pat McManaman
Pat McManaman

By Jim Mendoza - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Donald Narimatsu's shopping list is long enough to fill a flatbed. The goods he and Linda Lee get from the Foodbank will help their church feed the poor.

"There's different things we do. Our breakfast club is a ministry that feeds them Sunday morning," Lee said.

The U.S. Census Bureau said America's poverty hit a 27-year high in 2010.

It dipped slightly in Hawaii.

But Foodbank development director Polly Kauahi said that's not reflected in demand for food from agencies that help the poor.

"We're looking at numbers right now that one out of every five children in Hawaii live in a household that doesn't know where their food is going to come from," she said.

Last year, more than 152,000 people in Hawaii earned less than the poverty threshold. Although median income went up, demand increased for low income health insurance and for food stamps, now called SNAP.

"One out of five Hawaii residents is currently a beneficiary of Medicaid. And in those numbers we have not seen any downward trending," said State Human Services director Pat McManaman.

The stockpile at the Foodbank is down to a seventeen-day supply. The organization buys more food now than it did a year ago to supplement donations.

"It's a statistical number. But in the people that we serve it's not a number. We're talking about hunger. It's a feeling," Kauahi said.

"To see their needs, we can offer some type of hope," Lee said.

Hawaii's poverty numbers may be down a little, but those who feed the poor will tell you, the need they shop for is greater than ever.

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