TMT Donates $100K to The Food Basket

April 22, 2020, 6:00 AM HST (Updated April 21, 2020, 4:16 PM)
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TMT Donated $100,000 to the Food Basket, which coordinated a recent Ohana Drop at Old Kona Airport Park. PC: Food Basket

Thirty Meter Telescope has donated $100,000 to The Food Basket, Hawaii Island’s food bank.

The donation is meant to help the Big Island meet the growing demand for food assistance in the wake of COVID-19. The funding will be used to support The Food Basket’s existing programs, including Ohana Drops, the Kūpuna Pantry and Da Box Program, according to a press release from the Food Basket.

“We’re incredibly grateful to TMT for this generous gift that will have a significant and meaningful impact in the community,” said The Food Basket Executive Director Kristin Frost Albrecht. “Calls for food assistance have tripled since the COVID-19 crisis began, and TMT’s $100,000 donation will allow us to help anywhere between 2,000 to 20,000 people in a single month, depending on the program.”

The Food Basket has experienced a greater demand for food assistance than in other disasters, including recent volcanic eruptions and Hurricane Lane, with many first-time recipients looking for help due to being laid off or furloughed. In addition, with Hawai‘i Island schools closed, many families who relied on free or subsidized school breakfasts and lunches to keep their keiki fed are facing greater need.

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“We estimate we will serve 25,000 people in need on Hawai‘i Island in April, compared to 14,000 people in a typical month, and we expect these numbers will continue to increase in the coming weeks,” Albrecht added. “The greatest areas of need include Puna, Ka‘ū, Hāmākua and greater Hilo.”

“From the very beginning more than 10 years ago, TMT approached the community, asking what was most needed, how it could help be part of the community and setting on a path to fulfill those needs,” said Sandra Dawson, TMT’s Hawai‘i community affairs manager. “In this same spirit, we are honored we can help during the COVID-19 crisis.”

The Food Basket provides food assistance to the elderly, families and children through its more than 150 partner agencies. Among its programs are Ohana Drops, which provide 14 days of food per person at 14 active sites across the island; Kūpuna Pantry, which works to improve the health of low-income seniors by supplementing their diets with nutritious USDA foods; and Da Box Program, which purchases and distributes produce from Hawai‘i Island farmers.

TMT’s donation was made in memory of Barry Taniguchi, a long-time TMT supporter who helped to establish The Food Basket and was its chair at the time of his passing, the press release said.

Taniguchi is credited with making the first food donation to the agency in 1989. He carried that first food donation to the Office of Social Ministry’s Carol Ignacio’s car and the first food delivery was made to Hilo’s Salvation Army. That first food delivery led to over 20 years of food bank activity, two warehouses in Hilo and Kona and tens of thousands of pounds of food collected and distributed to families in need.

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