Community and county step up to help stock Food Basket shelves for holidays

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Federally-funded food shipped from the mainland typically makes up 85% of the supply for the Big Islandʻs nonprofit Food Basket, but now executive director Kristin Frost Albrecht said it only accounts for about 10% due to national supply chain issues.

This shortfall has occurred at a time when the number of people who rely on the Big Island’s food bank to help feed themselves and their families has remained steady at about 45,00 to 50,000 individuals per month.

Photo credit: Christine Kaehuaea

But with help from the community, county and state, the Food Basket has adapted to meet the local needs for the past few months and as it enters the holiday season, when the need ticks up.

“The federal food that we normally receive hasn’t been coming in the same amount,” Albrecht said. “We’re having to purchase most of our food. It’s a total change in how we do business.”

The Food Basket began to receive less federal food shipments in June due to supply chain issues across the country. The nonprofit had been receiving 100,000 pounds per month of federal food. This month, the food bank received 8,000 pounds.

“In August we didn’t receive anything, and it’s been pretty sparse since then,” Albrecht said.


Despite the sharp decline in food, the community came together. Albrecht said lots of funding and food has been donated since July.

During the holiday season, multiple organizations around the Big Island are holding food drives to support the Food Basket, whose mission is to end hunger in Hawaiʻi County.

“I’m really heartened by what we’re able to get out to everyone,” Albrecht said.

While she wants to see the return of federal food at previous levels, the Food Basket has been applying for grants, strictly for food. The Food Basket is spending $300,000 a month on food, compared to last year when it was spending between $75,000 to 100,000 a month.

The Food Basket has received grants from the state and private entities.


“We’re turning over every stone,” Albrecht said. “We spend those funds on island. We really believe in supporting our local economy as it treats the root cause of hunger.”

Recently, the nonprofit also received a $600,000 grant from Hawaii County.

“It still gives me goosebumps,” Albrecht said.

The Food Basket also has been partnering with local farmers to bolster its food supply. One way is through a program called Kokua Harvest, which focuses on gathering and harvesting food that might otherwise go to waste. Food is coming from farmers, backyard gardeners or anyone who has a tree they’re not harvesting, including ʻulu (breadfruit) and kalo (taro).

Because of this program, Albrecht said they are finding people who are harvesting on their own and giving to the nonprofit.


“We have lots of gratitude,” Albrecht said. “This Big Island community always takes care of their neighbors in need. It’s so amazing and beautiful the way people care.”

Currently, the food bank needs protein, anything fresh, canned meats and tofu.

“It’s wonderful to get holiday items as well: stuffing, mashed potatoes and pies. We would love any and all of that,” Albrecht said.

To donate, click here.

For more information about how to donate or how to receive food assistance, call 808-933-6030 for the Hilo office and 808-322-1418 for the Kona office.

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