I was delighted to see Civil Beat’s editorial, “Feed Hawaii’s Hungry.” Food insecurity and the malnutrition that comes with it deserves far more attention than it has been getting.

NOTE: pick the correct link

However, the issue should be approached with care.

The article’s opening paragraph says “1 in 6 children in Hawaii struggle with hunger,” and cites a 2016 study by a mainland food bank organization as its source. The study and its methodology were not clearly identified.

If there is real interest in child malnutrition, the state government should be monitoring and reporting on the problem in a systematic way.

Civil Beat’s report suggests that people go hungry for financial reasons, meaning poverty.

However, while practically all people who are hungry are poor, not all poor people are hungry. There are many communities that eat quite well despite their having little money.

Local produce for sale at the Pearlridge Farmer's Market held near Sears. Saturday. 13 feb 2015. photograph Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Local produce for sale at the Pearlridge Farmers Market in 2015.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

The article supports a program to encourage more purchases of locally produced fruits and vegetables through the SNAP program. That is certainly a good thing, but it is not likely that this would make much difference in the prevalence of hunger among Hawaii’s children.

Would any agency assess the impact?

It would be more useful to require the Department of Health to continuously monitor food security in the state, using data and methods already developed by the federal government, and also implement well-designed programs to address the problem.

DOH did monitor food security for a short time in the past, as I explain in my article “Food Security in Hawaii.”

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About the Author

  • George Kent
    After more than 40 years of teaching in the University of Hawaii’s Department of Political Science, George Kent retired in 2010 as professor emeritus. Currently he serves as an adjunct professor with the Department of Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Sydney in Australia and also with the Department of Transformative Social Change Program at Saybrook University in California. Kent has worked with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the United Nations Children’s Fund, the World Food Programme and several nongovernmental organizations. He has also written on food policy issues.