At Hawaii Foodbank, inflation is pushing up costs. It’s also driving more need

The Hawaii Foodbank is set to hold its annual food drive across Oahu, an especially important cause this year as inflation lingers.
Published: Aug. 25, 2022 at 5:35 PM HST|Updated: Aug. 25, 2022 at 5:36 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Hawaii Foodbank is hosting its annual food drive across Oahu this weekend.

It’s an especially important cause this year given the impacts of inflation on people’s wallets.

Federal figures show the cost of food in the state is up 10% compared to last year.

That means the food bank is trying to survive the economic crisis while also staying true to its mission.

“Just like everyone else, our costs are going up as well,” said Amy Marvin, Hawaii Foodbank president and CEO.

“Food prices are really going up. We’re spending more and more just to bring food in. Putting fuel in our own trucks to bring donations back, so it is kind of a double whammy for the foodbank.”

For details on this weekend’s food drive, click here.

Marvin says the organization is serving 50% more people than it was pre-COVID and it’s also on track to spend $8 million this year in food purchases alone.

They are conditions reminiscent of the country’s last economic crisis.

“These kind of impacts have a really long tail,” Marvin said.

“So we know after the recession in 2008, it actually took about 10 years for food insecurity levels to recover to what they were before the recession. So we’re really seeing that same thing.”

So are the food bank’s 200 partner agencies across the state.

One of them is the Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center, which has distributed six million pounds of food since the start of the pandemic. Inflation has kept need at an all-time high.

“It’s hard,” said WCCHC director of health promotion Alicia Higa. “We create really strong relationships with our community and they trust us and when we’re having to stretch out the food to be able to meet the needs of more and more people everyday. It’s heartbreaking because we know it’s not enough food for them.”

Especially painful: Demand is increasingly coming from senior citizens.

Higa says they currently serve 740 kupuna each week through their pantry, a 30% jump in just the last month.

Part of the reason is Social Security adjustments that nullify government food benefits.

“For some, it’s nominal,” Higa said. “It’s increases of $6 that are totally bumping them off of SNAP benefits, so they’re losing over $200 of SNAP benefits just for getting an increase of $6 in Social Security.”

But the financial climate isn’t stopping the food bank’s drive to serve as they’ve increased partnerships with mainland foodbanks and are working with local companies to increase their inventory of produce.

The community can also play a part as every dollar donated helps the bank provide food for at least two meals.

“I think we continue to be nimble and continue to try to find new ways to fight hunger,” Marvin said.

“One of those is really partnering with the community, thinking about nutrition, thinking about ways that we can help people stretch their meal.”