For my birthday on July 12th, I invited about 20 friends to join me for a fun beach day by the ocean in Waikiki. I requested that instead of gifts and flower leis, people please bring cans of food to be donated to my church’s food pantry. Much to my surprise I got a good turn out and a laundry basket full of cans (SPAM).
I live and work in Honolulu and while it is paradise, we experience social issues and challenges just like every other state. Hawaii has been struggling with homelessness for some time, but with the recent economic turn down, I have seen an increase in the number of people living on our beaches, bus shelters and parks. My heart goes out to them.
Several years ago I helped out at the food pantry at St. Anthony’s Church in Kailua. A wonderful woman named Valerie runs the outreach program. She had explained to me that as an isolated island chain, Hawaii has some geographic challenges that other places do not. Many people move to Hawaii not understanding the high cost of living and often do not have a family or support network around them. People new to Hawaii are often shocked at the prices of gas, food and rent. They may lose their job and they can’t afford an airline ticket back home. It really brings into play the concept of community and family “ohana.” Without people helping one another things are difficult. I was living in Australia a few years ago and when I returned to Hawaii, I was lucky and able to stay with friends until I got back on my feet and in a new job.
There is a huge misconception about who visits food banks. I vividly remember a woman and her two beautiful children driving up in their minivan. She and I were about the same age. I could see myself in her. She was not homeless; she was a single mom on the fringe, visiting the food pantry to supplement her cupboards. She did not want to go on assistance because she worried about the stigma it might place on her children.
My birthday can drive was just an easy and small thing to do. Anyone can do it. I would encourage others celebrating birthdays or anniversaries to do the same and ask for donations of canned goods to be donated in the community. At my birthday, kids were asking what the cans were for, so it was also an opportunity to explain to them that some people go hungry. It is a great way to connect and engage friends and family and bring awareness to the many families that are struggling now more than ever.
Moving ahead, on August 29th at the Honolulu Civic Center there will be the Hawaii Foodbank’s 5th Annual Hunger Walk. I will be walking on behalf of my church, St. Pius X Parish (Manoa-Punahou Catholic Community #107) and I am encouraging my friends to join me. My dad has already agreed to sponsor me. The great thing about this event is that you can just come out and walk to raise awareness or walk for a member agency. The agency you walk for will get a shopping credit at the Hawaii Foodbank for funds raised.
Bring awareness to those struggling in your community by participating in the Hawaii Foodbank’s 5th Annual Hunger Walk, contributing to a food bank in your neighborhood or searching for an existing opportunity in your area by searching keyword: “food bank” “food pantry” “food drive”