HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The final large food distribution of the year took place Friday, serving roughly 3,500 families in need — a reminder that, even nine months after the start of the coronavirus pandemic, many residents are still facing economic hardship.
Great Aloha Run organizers, in partnership with Hawaii Foodbank and the City and County of Honolulu, handed out food packages during the special holiday food distribution event, which ran from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Each family received about 97 pounds of fresh produce and other food items ahead of the holidays.
The Hawaii Foodbank held an online registration for the upcoming food distribution event, and all of the spots had been claimed prior to Friday.
Honolulu Mayor Caldwell says the city has come a long way since its first distribution event, which was held back in April at the Waipio Peninsula Soccer Complex.
Months later, businesses and community activists across the island are still reaching out to ask how they can help, Caldwell said.
“There are folks in our community, the private sector, just individuals in various industries who approached me and said ‘we want to help,’” Caldwell said during a Wednesday press conference. “They raised $235,000. Some of the folks are in this room.”
That money was raised by Carole Kai Charities and sponsors of its Great Aloha Run, including Hawaii Pacific Health and Commercial Plumbing.
“I’m really grateful that we have such wonderful people in Hawaii, because without you, we’re nothing,” said a tearful Carole Kai.
“Recognizing that there are many struggling to make ends meet in this current environment, it’s so gratifying to us to see all the partners working together to secure food for three thousand five hundred families who need assistance at this time,” said Art Gladstone, Hawaii Pacific Health executive vice president.
City officials say more than 80,000 households have received food assistance over the course of the pandemic, to the tune of more than 3.6 million pounds of food.
“Other food drives where I’ve been have been just a blessing for everybody,” said Kalihi resident Lauta Shen. She was thankful that she and her husband are working, but she has picked up boxes of food for other family members.
Caldwell said the Foodbank will still have smaller community food drives, but larger-scale efforts may still require more federal assistance, like the CARES act that expires at the end of the year.
“I do believe in the next Congress, and with the next president, President-elect Biden, that there will be a CARES 2, and with that will come more food distribution, which is absolutely necessary,” Caldwell said.
Shen was disappointed that Friday’s event will be the last large food distribution of the year, but she remains hopeful.
“That’s kinda sad because a lot of people are struggling, so hopefully the government can use the fundings to try to continue these food drives to continue to happen for the families out there that need this help,” said Shen.