Consumers are being urged to ‘buy local,’ but the pandemic is limiting Hawaii-made options

Updated: Apr. 1, 2021 at 11:11 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The closure of Love’s Bakery on Wednesday was sobering for employees and customers alike, and experts say this could be an indication that the pandemic has caused Hawaii to move further from its goal of being more self-sustaining.

The bakery’s sales dropped more than 20% last year as the pandemic forced hotels and restaurants to drastically cut back their purchases.

Locally-made and grown food providers rely on the hospitality industry to purchase their products. On top of that, families have had to tighten the purse strings.

“Everyone wants to support local businesses but not everyone can. Again economics come into play, price comes into play,” said Brian Miyamoto, executive director of the Hawaii Farm Bureau.

“Farmers sell their food to the hospitality industry. So as we see the economy slowly opening up, we’ll see our farmers and their markets reopening also.”

At least, that’s what businesses said they are hoping for.

In the meantime, Miyamoto commends local food producers and their resiliency with programs like Farm to Car, where local fresh produce can be picked up after an online order.

“But some folks are on a limited budget,” Miyamoto said.

“We hear it all the time, how much everyone supports our local agriculture industry, but sometimes from a cost standpoint, it does make it a little bit more challenging to purchase locally.”

With the hospitality industry taking a huge hit, along with Love’s, other local food providers are also hurting.

This leaves a hole to be filled.

“Many restaurants were buying from Love’s and what now with Love’s not being in business we’re going to have to pivot,” said Sheryl Matsuoka with the Hawaii Restaurant Association.

“There are alternate sources where we can fly in bread or we could buy frozen.”

Restaurant owners said they are likely going to turn to a mainland option for now, but this pandemic has caused a chain reaction for all local food providers.

“When the hotels stop buying and the restaurants stop buying, then they have to really rethink their crops,” Mastsuoka said.

“So you’re gonna see that ripple effect.”

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