One of state's largest food pantries faces closure

Updated: Nov. 21, 2016 at 6:20 PM HST
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(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)

KAKAAKO, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Hawaii Foodbank's largest distributor of food to the needy is scrambling to find a new home, and warns that tons of perishable food could be wasted when operations cease on Dec. 1.

Feeding Hawaii Together doles out three million pounds a year to 1,200 clients a week.

"We're able to supply our senior citizens and disabled once a week with this fresh food," assistant director Diana Lorenz said.

She said unless a new home is found, operations will have to cease Dec. 1. And because no other food pantry can accommodate the large quantities of perishables Feeding Hawaii Together has, they might have to be tossed.

The nonprofit warns tons of vegetables, milk and eggs could end up in the landfill.

Meanwhile, the Hawaii Foodbank said it can't distribute those perishables directly from its warehouse in Mapunapuna.

"There's no way. We don't have that kind of capacity," Hawaii Foodbank's Roxanne Stark said.

Feeding Hawaii Together announced in August that the leased Kakaako building it had been in for 15 years was being sold, and that it would need new space in urban Honolulu. So far, the nonprofit hasn't found anything.

The food pantry's impending closure comes at the height of the holiday season, when need typically grows. Other nonprofits said they're unsure of how they'll be able to accommodate all those who get help through Feeding Hawaii Together.

"Right now this is the convenient place for us because it's in reach of our church service and our program. We don't know where the other sources of food are," said Macky Purdy, of First LAP, a program for former prison inmates.

Palama Settlement anticipates many more customers at its food pantry when Feeding Hawaii shuts down, as do other small food pantries in the urban core.

"To accommodate that we're going to try opening more days to the community, and we're obviously going to try to increase our stock here," Palama Settlement's Leah Lee said.

But Palama and other pantries can't handle refrigerated foods at the volume of Feeding Hawaii. Without that critical link, Hawaii Foodbank's ability to get perishables to the needy all over the city will be crippled, officials warned.

"Perishable foods don't have that kind of time." Stark said.

After it closes the Kakaako warehouse, Feeding Hawaii might try doling out food with a truck, bringing in food to a central location and then leaving when supplies runs out.

"We can maybe do that to meet the need," Lorenz said.

Feeding Hawaii needs at least 6,000 square feet of space. Lorenz said the search for another home will continue even after operations cease.

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