Nicole Woo, an advocate at the Appleseed Center, says that there are several groups working to feed the hungry in Hawaii separately, including Hawaii Meals on Wheels and Hawaii Foodbank.
“It would be very helpful to try to bring organizations and people who are concerned about hunger, bring them together, so that they can coordinate and work better together,” she said.
A report commissioned by the Hawaii Community Foundation found that one in five Hawaii kids faces hunger, and one in three Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander households are in danger of going hungry.
The report also says Hawaii residents in isolated rural areas are twice as likely to go hungry. The high cost of living, low salaries and high rates of homelessness also compound the problem.
Piikea Miller, program director at Hawaii Community Foundation, says the report prompted the organization to pull together $480,000 to fund a director and coordination expenses for three years. The money also comes from the Stupski Foundation and other donors. (Although Civil Beat’s publisher Pierre Omidyar has donated to Hawaii Community Foundation, Miller says no Omidyar funds are being used in this grant.)
“This is modeled on the example of other states or other large metropolitan areas like New York City where the creation of a coalition of people who are addressing hunger issues has produced some really great results,” Miller said.
Woo says Hawaii also has relatively low rates of participation in school breakfast programs and participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as food stamps.
She acknowledges a survey from the U.S. Department of Agriculture indicates that Hawaii is doing better than other states when it comes to food insecurity. But Woo said that given the high cost of food, the statistic “doesn’t seem to match up against the reality that we see everyday.”