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Food Basket of Hawaii Begins Annual Backpack Drive

The Food Basket, Hawai‘i Island’s food pantry, will begin its annual backpack program in October, to help provide school children with backpacks full of nutritious food on a regular basis.  A nationwide initiative that the state adopted five years ago, the program has served more than 450 children in two schools over the last two years.

Photo: Courtesy of The Food Basket

Photo: Courtesy of The Food Basket

“On the Big Island, we have five elementary schools with free and reduced lunch registrations over 90%,” said En Young, The Food Basket (TFB) Executive Director. “The school with the highest utilization is at 97%.”  Part of the National School Lunch Program that provides meals to children on school days, the Free and Reduced-Price Lunch Program requires registration, and can therefore help measure food needs of a particular school and community.

“Free and reduced lunch kids tend to get their most nutritious meal at school, so we stuff a backpack full of canned food, beverages and snacks for them to take home—especially over long weekends.  We try to do this at least once a month, and every other week before summer,” said Young.

Young said that this year, with support from the Food Bank, Hawai‘i island United Way and a very generous private grant, TFB will be able to expand the backpack program to three schools and more than 1,100 keiki in the Puna and South Kona Districts. Every child in the school may receive a backpack, without being labeled as needy. “We qualify the school rather than the individual,” said Young.

According to TFB website:

  • Not having enough food to sustain a healthy life is a reality for 1 in 8 Americans.  This includes children and seniors.
  • The lack of proper nutrition affects the cognitive and behavioral development of children.
  • According to the United States Department of Agriculture, limited resources prevent more than 36 million Americans from getting enough food.

In Hawai‘i specifically:

  • 32% of those served by TFB have had to choose between food and rent or mortgage bills, 27% between food and medicine or medical needs.
  • Among households with children, 67% are food insecure, including 31% who are experiencing hunger.
  • 11 % of adults served are elderly (65 or older).
  • 25% of households served had one or more children under age 18; and 6% of households served had one or more children age 5 or under.
  • 63% of client households have a monthly income below $1,000

“It’s important for us to help the public become more aware of what we do,” said Young.
For us, we want people to know that the need is there, and even if we can’t serve everybody, The Food Basket can make a difference, and help feed hungry kids.”

The Food Basket is an island-wide, supplemental food network that, in partnership with numerous community organizations, collects and distributes nutritious, high-quality food to low-income households, the working poor, senior citizens, children, people who are disabled or ill, and other members of the Big Island’s most vulnerable populations. Programs include regularly scheduled soup kitchens and food pantries in East and West Hawaii. For more information, or to make a donation, please visit www.foodbaskethi.org or call 808-933-6060.

 

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