Right now, as you read this, someone on Maui—perhaps in your very own neighborhood—is wondering where their next meal will come from. As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, thousands of residents are grappling with food insecurity. Before the coronavirus outbreak, the Maui Food Bank served 10,000 food-insecure people countywide every month. That number has now risen to 35,000 and will likely increase in the months to come.

And the nonprofit isn’t alone. Food banks on Hawaii Island, Kauai and Oahu are also facing unprecedented need amid the simultaneous health and economic crises. “This is the most pressing issue right now,” said Moana Andersen of Equity One Real Estate. “People need to be fed.”

Andersen serves as president of the recently formed Hawaii Realtors Charitable Foundation, which is holding a month-long food drive to help food banks statewide continue to provide hunger relief to residents in need. The food drive began on Tuesday, Sept. 1 and will run through Wednesday, Sept. 30. There are collection sites on Maui, Oahu, Kauai and Hawaii Island; donations on each island will benefit their respective food banks. Maui residents can drop off cans of food at several locations, including the Realtors Association of Maui (RAM) main office (441 Ala Makani St. in Kahului); Fidelity National Title’s offices in Kahului, Wailea, Pukalani and Lahaina; and Title Guaranty’s offices in Lahaina, Wailea and Kahului.

With the tagline, “One Can If Can,” the food drive aims to fill the shelves of Hawaii’s food banks with cans of long-lasting, non-perishable foods, everything from canned chicken to Spam to green beans. Whether it’s a single can of tomato soup or a six-pack of Vienna sausage, Andersen said, “Every can counts.”

In April, Hawaii Realtors launched the Hawaii Realtors Charitable Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose mission is to serve communities throughout the state by supporting other charitable and nonprofit organizations and their efforts to support those in need. Realtors from across the state serve on its board of directors, including Andersen and fellow RAM member Tracy Stice of Hawaii Life Real Estate Brokers. The foundation’s first major initiative was a donation of $50,000 that was split among five food banks, including the Hawaii Foodbank ($12,500), Maui Food Bank ($12,500), The Food Basket, Inc.–Hawaii Island’s Food Bank ($12,500), Hawaii Foodbank Kauai Branch ($6,250) and the Kauai Independent Food Bank ($6,250).

According to the Hawaii Foodbank, one in eight Hawaii residents struggles with hunger, including more than 53,000 children. For those living in Maui County, the Maui Food Bank’s impact cannot be overstated: A recent Hawaii State Department of Health study revealed that Maui County residents are at serious risk for having one of the highest rates of food insecurity in the state. Of those who benefit from the Maui Food Bank, 65 percent have an income below the official poverty guidelines and 37 percent come from working households. Additionally, one in five children living in Maui County is currently at risk of going hungry—a 62 percent increase over the past decade. Now more than ever, food and monetary donations are needed to help feed anyone who is at risk of going hungry, which is why efforts like the Hawaii Realtors Charitable Foundation’s food drive are so important.

For more information about the Hawaii Realtors Charitable Foundation’s statewide food drive or to view a list of collection sites and drop-off times, visit http://www.hawaiirealtors.com/fooddrive. To learn more about the Maui Food Bank or to inquire about donor or volunteer opportunities, visit www.mauifoodbank.org or call 243-9500.

The Maui News – September 14, 2020