Hawai‘i Island Food Basket helping nonprofits feed families on Thanksgiving
November 15, 2023, 12:00 PM HST
During Hope Diamend Ministries’ annual turkey giveaway on Sunday in Ocean View, Associate Pastor Myya Auld was worried she would be forced to turn people away.
Over the past nine years, the congregation has donated its own money to buy turkeys or hams for families struggling to put a holiday meal on the table. Last year, the ministries gave out 60 turkeys with grocery bags full of items that included stuffing, salad and dessert.
But this year, Auld said many in the congregation fell on hard times as the cost of living skyrocketed. The meals are usually for four to six people costing between $100-$150 per dinner.
So Auld reached out to the Hawai‘i Island Food Basket for help. She contacted Marshall Akamu, West Hawai‘i Operations Manager, to see if she could buy some of the non-perishable items in bulk for the dinners.
“When I called him I was sitting there at my wit’s end,” Auld said.
Hawai‘i Island Food Basket provides meals for families, and it also partners with nonprofits to distribute food to those who need it most. On Monday, the food bank’s Kona warehouse had a pallet of boxes ready for pickup on Friday by Hope Diamond Ministries.
Auld described the ministries’ new partnership with the Food Basket as a godsend and a miracle.
The congregation has about 40 or 50 turkeys and hams ready to send home with families. Every year, she said the need seems to double.
Hope Diamend Ministries will have its Thanksgiving dinner right after Sunday service on Nov. 19 at Kahuku Park. The congregation also will hand out the holiday meals for home preparation to families at the event.
Akamu said donations to the food bank are always down throughout the year but there is an influx in donations when the holiday season arrives.
During Thanksgiving, Akamu said the Food Basket will provide the holiday meal essentials, like stuffing, cranberry sauce, canned vegetables and potentially a ham or turkey. The nonprofit agencies that receive the food make up the individual boxes.
The need for the food bank ebbs and flows with the economic times.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, Kristin Frost Albrecht, executive director of the Food Basket, said the nonprofit served 14,000 families islandwide.
During the height of that health crisis — which forced the closure of businesses, loss of jobs and proclamations ordering people to stay home to avoid the spread of the virus — the Food Basket was servicing 84,000 families per month.
After businesses reopened and people returned to jobs, the need dropped to about 42,000 families per month. But now with the cost of living rising faster than wages, the need has risen to about 50,000 families per month.
Recently, the Food Basket held a food drop event in Nā‘ālehu where 1,000 families came out for food. This was similar to the number of families that came out during the pandemic, Albrecht said.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the food bank never had to buy food with enough donations from the community, local grocery stores and farmers.
But that changed during the pandemic and ever since the Food Basket has had to supplement donated food with items they purchase wholesale by the pallet from local grocery stores and farmers, Albrecht said.
And, the wholesale prices have also risen sharply by about 15% to 20% for most goods. Albrecht specifically noticed a rise in meat, bread and rice, although canned tuna has stayed the same.
At the Kona warehouse, Akamu opened a refrigerator full of Costco cookies, muffins and other treats.
In a freezer, there Crustables, frozen chicken and two frozen turkeys, all donated by Target.
David Ha‘alilio Jr., West Hawai‘i Warehouse Manager said they are always in need of canned meat, vegetables, soups and ready-made meals like chili. However, monetary donations go a long way to help the Food Basket shop for specific needs.
Despite the rising cost of food, Albrecht said the nonprofit is lucky to have a community that helps each other. This includes Hope Diamend Ministries.
To donate to Hawai‘i Island Food Basket or to volunteer, click here.
Those interested in donating money to Hope Diamend Ministries can call 808-937-6355, or checks can be mailed to:
PO Box 6393
Oceanview, Hawai‘i 96737