HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - With unemployment at more than 33%, need in Hawaii has perhaps never been higher.
From businesses closing up shop and letting go of workers to an unemployment backlog, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to have ripple effects throughout the community.
Those impacts were clearly visible at food distribution sites across Oahu on Saturday, where distributors of donated food were met with long lines of families in need.
In Mapunapuna, Honolulu police were called out to help with traffic control as cars lined up for eggs, vegetables and other food being given away at the Aloha Products warehouse.
Some people waited as long as four hours in their vehicle for the line to move along. The turnout even surprised workers at the company who organized the giveaway.
“Times are hard. ... I understand many people out there, there’s no jobs,” said Jun Chung, Aloha Products’ owner.
“I thought about it, the past 27 years I ran Aloha Products. These are the people I see today that they’re the ones who have supported me. This is a little something that I can show them my thanks, my appreciation."
Chung’s company wanted to give away food to 500 families but many more showed up, tying up traffic in Mapunapuna all morning.
A line of cars blocked the westbound lane on the Kikowaena Street overpass. On the ewa side of Mapunapuna, another line of cars on Pualoa Road snaked into Pukoloa Street.
At Farrington High School, a separate distribution event was held. The line stretched for more than a mile and-a-half, backing up drivers on surface streets, and near the Houghtailing off ramp.
But the mood was much more upbeat than in Mapunapuna. A DJ played music as a hundred volunteers passed out food to 1,000 families with factory-like precision.
“It’s really organized. All the cars are numbered and we have all the stations and they know which bags to give out," said state Sen. Donna Mercado Kim, who represents Kalihi and graduated from Farrington High School.
About 60% of all public school students at Farrington High School and the 11 other elementary and middle schools in the Kalihi area come from low-income households and the coronavirus pandemic only made their financial hardships worse.
“I came in at 7 this morning and they were already waiting so they stood in line for five or six hours and from them I got nothing but appreciative comments for putting this on," said Al Carganilla, Farrington High School’s principal.
“I know they’re struggling. It’s just our small way of giving back — to say we’re thinking about you and we still care about you during these difficult times.”