Amid the ongoing health and economic crises, food banks across the country are facing an unprecedented demand for resources. The Maui Food Bank is no exception. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the nonprofit served 10,000 food-insecure people every month. That number has now risen to 35,000 people per month.

To help fill the demand, the Realtors Association of Maui (RAM) is holding a two-week-long virtual food drive to help the Maui Food Bank continue to provide hunger relief to residents in need. The “Got Rice?” campaign, which began on Aug. 1 and runs through Aug. 15, aims to collect $10,000 to fill the Maui Food Bank’s shelves with—yes, you guessed it—bags of rice.

Why rice? For one thing, the starchy, high-calorie grain is a versatile pantry staple that can be prepared myriad ways. It’s also one of the Maui Food Bank’s most-needed items (alongside cereal, pasta, canned foods and financial contributions).

RAM’s public relations committee devised the idea for the Got Rice? campaign earlier this summer. The committee is composed of Erin Clapper and LoreLee Robello of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Advantage Realty Valley Isle, RAM Marketing and Communications Manager Kelsey Daimon, Lydia Pedro of Wailea Realty Corp. + Windermere Real Estate, Melissa Salvador of Old Republic Title, Rob Shelton of Island Sotheby’s International Realty, Sarah Sorenson of Whale’s Tail Realty and Uilani Todd of Lowson & Associates.

“Even though many agencies within RAM are holding various food drives, fundraisers and other community service efforts, the PR committee felt it was perfect timing for RAM to unite its members on one focused initiative,” Salvador said. “We have such a large organization that if every member just contributed a little bit, we could make a huge impact for the Maui Food Bank in our community’s biggest time of need.”

There are four donation amounts: $20, $50, $100 and $200. A $20 donation buys 40 pounds of rice, $50 buys 100 pounds, $100 buys 200 pounds, and $200 buys 400 pounds.

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.

And now more than ever, food and monetary donations are needed to meet the unprecedented demand and help feed families, children and youth, seniors, the homeless—anyone who is at risk of going hungry.

“We are so thankful for the rice drive, ‘Got Rice,’ that is being sponsored by RAM,” said Maui Food Bank Development Director Marlene Rice. “In the past, the Maui Food Bank has served 10,000 people a month. Currently, the food bank is providing food for 35,000 people a month who are experiencing food scarcity. And those numbers are expected to rise. In the last few months, the food bank has distributed over 2 million pounds of food throughout Maui County, including Maui, Molokai, and Lanai, to people in need of hunger relief. Working together, we can make a difference—a very special mahalo to RAM for all they are doing to help the hungry in Maui County.”

The Got Rice? virtual food drive runs through Saturday, Aug. 15. To make a donation, visit https://mauifoodbank.org/project/ram. 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 – August 3, 2020