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Senior Produce Program Ends After a Decade

March 21, 2017, 11:07 AM HST (Updated March 21, 2017, 11:10 AM)
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Seniors gather for ‘Senior Produce’ in Pāhoa. Photo: The Food Basket.

The Food Basket’s Marshall Akamu with senior volunteers at Old Airport Kona. Photo: The Food Basket.

The Food Basket’s Senior Produce Program is forced to shut down after budget slashes.

The Food Basket Inc. – Hawai‘i Island’s Food Bank’s Senior Farmer’s Market Nutrition Program, known by senior participants as “Senior Produce,” is ending this year after a decade of service.

Changes in administrative structure and budget slashes at the state level have made the program, implemented on Hawai`i Island by The Food Basket, financially unable to continue into 2017.

Administrative costs for program application were cut in half while increasing participant load and cutting the $150 per senior program allowance to just $50 per senior for the 15-week period.

“This is a huge blow for seniors on the Big Island,” said The Food Basket Executive Director En Young. “Our fresh produce program has really become one of our flagship programs, with seniors calling year-round to inquire about enrollment. It also brought over $230,000 in purchases of fresh, local produce to farmers islandwide, which will now be deferred elsewhere.

“We’re working frantically to bring in other programs and funds that can provide comparable benefit to make sure we can continue to provide coverage for struggling seniors islandwide,” said Young.

Each summer, over a 15-week period, qualified low-income seniors were provided with free fresh produce grown by local farmers. The program strived to improve food access for seniors living in rural areas, while also increasing senior consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables.

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In 2016, The Food Basket served 1,515 eligible seniors throughout Hawai`i Island from June through October. A total of 22,725 bags of produce were distributed during the time frame.

The Food Basket’s Ho‘olaha Ka Hua community supported agriculture program, also known as “Da Box,” runs separately from Senior Produce and continues its service.

Seniors and residents at-large who qualify for SNAP/EBT can purchase the weekly box from The Food Basket for $12 a week. Non-SNAP/EBT customers are also welcome to purchase the weekly produce box for $16 a week. Pick-up locations for “Da Box” are island-wide, as well as at The Food Basket’s Hilo and Kona warehouses.

To sign up or learn more, contact Chelsea at 933-6030.

The Food Basket Mission

The mission of The Food Basket Inc. is to feed the hungry in Hawai‘i County while attending to the root causes of this critical social problem. The Food Basket will accomplish its mission by preventing the waste of all edible food in Hawai‘i County, feeding the hungry with this food, educating the community about local hunger and what can be done to solve this social problem, and collaborating with organizations of partnering missions to eradicate poverty, the root of hunger and other social ills.

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