County Council Approves Additional Funding for Food Distribution Efforts

June 4, 2020, 5:14 PM HST (Updated June 4, 2020, 5:14 PM)
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Keiki Care Pack packing for May. (PC: Pastor Darryn Fisher with Connect Point Church)
Keiki Care Pack packing for May. (PC: Pastor Darryn Fisher with Connect Point Church)
Keiki Care Pack packing for May. (PC: Pastor Darryn Fisher with Connect Point Church)
Keiki Care Pack packing for May. (PC: Hawai'i County Councilwoman Ashley Kierkiewicz)
Keiki Care Pack packing for May. (PC: Hawai'i County Councilwoman Ashley Kierkiewicz)
Keiki Care Pack packing for May. (PC: Hawai'i County Councilwoman Ashley Kierkiewicz)
Keiki Care Pack packing for May. (PC: Pastor Darryn Fisher with Connect Point Church)
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Hawai‘i County Council approved funding to support the continued food distribution efforts to keiki islandwide during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Wednesday morning, the council approved the transfer of $17,500 from the Clerk-Council Services Contingency Relief account to the Department of Research and Development’s Business Development account to assist in these endeavors.

Two resolutions specifically requested the transfer of funds. The first was for the Waimea Preservation Association’s (WPA) service in providing Grab-and-Go meals for the vulnerable populations in Waimea and Waikoloa. The received money is going toward food purchases and supplies required for meal preparation, distribution and cleanup.

The South Kohala nonprofit has been doing the meals since April 3 with the assistance of local restaurants donating meals. Donni Sheather, member of Waimea Preservation, started a food rescue program in 2017 where restaurants and delis donated leftover food. When COVID-19 set in, she decided to morph the program into the Grab-and-Go service.

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Between 3,000 and 4,000 meals have been handed out since they started. WPA runs the pickups on Mondays and Fridays and various churches assist on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Sheather said she is still looking for someone to help out on Saturday and Sunday.

Sheather said the work they do is humbling and gratifying.

I would not be able to do this without the volunteers,” she added. “They are steadfast, they are there. You can count on them, and the program could not go on without them.”

The program also helps the local restaurants as it has allowed them to keep their workers working.

Funding was also awarded to the Hawai‘i Island Food Basket. The nonprofit found additional funds for packaging, signage, supply on non-perishable foods, fresh locally-grown produce and education materials for Keiki Care Packs.

Council members Tim Richards and Ashley Kierkiewicz have been supporting these local feeding programs. Kierkiewicz is actively writing for grants for continued funding to the Food Basket.

“I don’t think this is the only food they’re getting, but it’s a way to fill in the gaps,” Kierkiewicz said.

The Food Basket packed and delivered 5,000 Keiki Care Packs in May.

Darryn Fisher, outreach pastor for Connect Point Church, has been the lead coordinator for packing and acquisition for the Keiki Care Pack initiative.

The initiative is a partnership with many entities. Hawai‘i Island Food Basket served as a fiscal sponsor but sponsors purchased all good items directly. This initiative has been a partnership of Connect Point Church, Activate Hawaii Aid, Hawaii Rise Foundation, Hawaii Island Food Basket, Hawaii United Way, Suisan, YHata, CostULess, Walmart, Hilo Candy Company, and Hilo Rice Mill.

“At first, we only planned to do a 1,000 bags,” Fisher said. “During the first round, we did not know what it would become. I am so thankful that I was here for such a time as this.”

Overall, the volunteers made and distributed more than 8,700 Keiki Care Packs, which were distributed islandwide. Every volunteer went through a thorough health screening and was required to wear a mask and gloves and maintain proper social distancing while serving.

“We leaned on a lot of folks who are the boots on the ground and knew where best the food could be used,” Kierkiewicz said.

Already a few days into June, Fisher said, there are no official plans for another round of packaging Keiki Care Packs. At this point, all partners will be looking into creative local outreach opportunities.

Tiffany DeMasters
Tiffany DeMasters is a reporter for Big Island Now. Tiffany worked as the cops and courts reporter for West Hawaii Today from 2017 to 2019. She also contributed stories to Ke Ola Magazine and Honolulu Civil Beat. Tiffany is an award-winning journalist, receiving recognition from the Utah-Idaho-Spokane Associated Press and Society of Professional Journalists. Tiffany grew up on the Big Island and is passionate about telling the community’s stories.

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