‘It’s hurting everybody’: Hawaii food pantries struggle with rising prices and growing need

Wally Inglis leads Wallyhouse at St. Elizabeth’s Episcopal Church in Kalihi.
Published: May. 25, 2022 at 2:06 PM HST|Updated: May. 25, 2022 at 4:38 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Wally Inglis leads Wallyhouse at St. Elizabeth’s Episcopal Church in Kalihi.

Six days a week, from 8 a.m. to noon, he feeds anyone who shows up for a meal.

But these days, it’s getting harder for him to meet the need. The rising cost of food is driving more people to his doorstep, but it’s also hitting his bottom line. He’s even had to cut back on his service, ending operations in the afternoon.

“We had a volunteer who could help, but there was nothing to hand out,” Inglis said. “Most of the stuff we would get would go in the morning. So it has affected us.”

And it’s hitting other food pantries, too.

The Hawaii Foodbank said the number of people it’s serving has been on the rise for the past six months, as the cost of groceries go up. Last month alone, need was up 15%.

And their grocery bill has skyrocketed, too.

They said the price of some foods ― such as meats, poultry, fish, and eggs ― have increased almost 30% compared to before the pandemic. The cost of rice alone has risen 15% since they last purchased it.

At WallyHouse, Inglis is doing what he can ― with whatever he can get his hands on.

And that help is appreciated.

Ludivina Domingo goes to the church daily for a meal. She’s 83.

“I’m here to get the food bank because my Social Security is not enough for me every month,” Domingo said.

Domingo worked in Hawaii’s hotel industry for 50 years. Now retired, she said her only income can’t keep up with rising costs. Her paychecks didn’t allow her to save for retirement.

“Yes, not enough,” Domingo said.

Nani Botelho frequents Wallyhouse as well. She is homeless and living in a tent.

She said it is hard to find a job without a high school diploma.

“I only got food stamps — nothing else,” Botelho said. “So we go around, picking up, recycles, digging it in to get extra money, cash and whatever.”

She said she has hope that she’ll have a roof over her head one of these days but doesn’t expect that to happen anytime soon.

“Everybody, not only just me. It’s hurting everybody,” she said. “But it keeps raising higher and higher.”

Volunteers at WallyHouse will continue moving the line along with what they have to offer.

But the rising price of food is also leaving them worried.

“How much longer are people going to have to stand in line?” Inglis said. “For a bag of food?”

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