Food Basket Rolls Out ‘New Year, New Wheels’ Campaign
The Food Basket, Inc.–Hawai`i Island’s Food Bank is seeking the community’s support during its “New Year, New Wheels” campaign, an effort to raise funds to replace worn out and unrepairable vehicles.
As Hawai’i Island’s only food bank, The Food Basket has been providing continuous emergency hunger relief for 27 years; the agency’s vehicles are an essential aspect of operations.
Each month, over 12,000 unduplicated individuals are served by The Food Basket through a network of partners and in-agency programs island-wide.
“Our vehicles are the workhorses of The Food Basket,” said Executive Director En Young. “We don’t produce food. We collect it and get it out to where it needs to be. Our population is only one-fifth that of O`ahu, but we are responsible for six times the area.
“We need reliable vehicles to serve places like Kapa‘au and Na‘alehu, because we can’t just stop at a service station if something goes wrong.”
In 2016, The Food Basket traveled over 130,000 “food miles,” picking up and delivering over 1.4 million pounds of food.
Unfortunately, the five vehicles currently being used by The Food Basket, which include only one model made within the past decade, are not mechanically reliable enough to cover The Food Basket’s 4,028-square-mile service area and often requires staff to use their own vehicles for deliveries.
“In West Hawai‘i, we deal with not only high temperature elements, but also far distances between neighboring towns,” said Marshall Akamu, West and North Hawai`i Operations manager. “It’s difficult to make these types of trips within our community without the certainty of reliable vehicles.”
Maintenance costs and rental expenses are rising sharply to compensate for out of service vehicles. Of The Food Basket’s five vehicles serving the entire island, only one is equipped with working refrigeration, providing additional challenges in maintaining the quality and safety of fresh food during transport.
“We have to have vehicles that work,” said Bernard Torres, lead warehouse associate and driver in Hilo. “None of the vehicles in Hilo currently have refrigeration capacity, which is a necessity.”
Funds raised through the campaign will be used to acquire a new box truck and cargo van for The Food Basket, both of which would have refrigeration.
The Food Basket is aiming to reach its $150,000 goal by July 31 in order to have these vehicles in use by the end of the year.