After weathering COVID, West Oahu kupuna now struggling with inflation

Five days a week, the Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center distributes food boxes to the community's kupuna.
Published: Sep. 14, 2022 at 9:19 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Out in West Oahu, feeding a community has become a daily grind.

Five days a week, the Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center distributes food boxes to Leeward coast kupuna.

Since the start of the pandemic, over six-million pounds of food have been distributed.

Organizers said they started seeing more faces when COVID assistance ran out and rising prices moved in.

Many are in a position where SNAP food stamp benefits stopped because social security payments increased.

“I think it’s just high stress, " WCCHC director of health promotion Alicia Higa said. “Since the pandemic has hit, it went from that fear of actually going into a grocery store to get food to not having enough funds to go to the grocery store to get food. It’s constant, something’s going on and we’re always trying to be one step ahead and problem solve for our kupuna.”

Christine Cullen is among the many that picks up a box weekly and has been struggling to keep her family fed.

“I know the cost of living, but it doesn’t work for everybody,” Cullen said. “I cannot pay this bill this month. I pay ‘em next month, oh next month, the same thing, I cannot pay ‘em because I got big eaters.”

But weathering this economy has become a collective fight as many waiting in line are also getting food for their neighbors.

“I have friends, kupuna that cannot drive or they sickly when this day happens, so I would bring for them,” said Waianae resident Genevieve Kalama. “There’s a lot of kupunas out there that need help.”

As a result, WCCHC is trying to answer that call, but the demand is so high.

For an upcoming food distribution this weekend, 1,700 available boxes were claimed in advance in less than three hours.

“It’s heartbreaking for me to see kupuna who have worked their entire lives to be in a situation where they have to line up for food now,” Higa said. “It feels good to be trusted, but it also is a heavy burden for us to make sure that we can continue to take care of these kupuna.”

For more information on distributions or how to donate, click here.