Amid inflation, Hawaii organizations team up to fight lingering food insecurity

Hawaii is moving along in its pandemic recovery, but inflation is still driving up grocery bills.
Published: Jan. 25, 2023 at 7:50 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii is moving along in its pandemic recovery, but inflation is still driving up grocery bills.

According to the U.S. Board of Labor Statistics, food prices are up 8% across the state compared to last year.

To meet the need for relief, local organizations are teaming up to feed Hawaii’s hungry.

“In supporting our community, we’re also supporting our employees and their families,” said Hawaiian Airlines chief financial officer Shannon Okinaka.

“We have over 7,000 employees at Hawaiian Airlines, most of whom live in the state of Hawaii, so when there’s an issue for the state, it is an issue for Hawaiian Airlines as well.”

That issue is food insecurity worsened by the pandemic and inflation.

As such, the carrier is partnering with the American Heart Association to feed families in need and spearheading a two-week long food drive with an emphasis on healthy options.

“We’re looking at things like brown rice instead of white rice,” Okinaka said. “Canned proteins instead of chicken and tuna and fish — looking for low sodium options.”

The items collected from Hawaiian Air are sent to the Hawaii Foodbank and its partners statewide.

The organization has seen COVID’s ripple effects first-hand.

Pre-pandemic, it would distribute 11 to 12 million pounds annually, which doubled during the height of the virus.

Now it’s estimated 81,000 kids statewide are impacted by food insecurity.

“We know that the pandemic really did hurt a lot of folks, especially kids maybe weren’t getting as much activity, were staying home,” said Hawaii Foodbank President and CEO Amy Marvin.

“ So it was having some pretty significant impacts on health.”

Marvin said fresh produce made up 30% of food distributed last year — efforts they’re always looking to increase.

Just one dollar donated to the bank helps provide at least two meals.

“Maybe buying medicine or paying their rent, these are impossible choices,” Marvin said. “We don’t think anyone should need to make those choices, but we know that’s the reality out there for lots of families.”

If you’re interested in donating to the Hawaii Food Bank, click here.