It’s a big number: 14,830. That’s how many pounds of rice the Maui Food Bank will receive as the result of a virtual food drive held by the Realtors Association of Maui (RAM) Aug. 1 through 15.

The two-week-long “Got Rice?” food drive raised more than $7,400 to help fill the Maui Food Bank’s shelves with bags of rice. Why rice? Apart from being a versatile pantry staple, it’s also one of the food bank’s most-needed items alongside cereal, pasta, canned foods and financial contributions. RAM members and non-members donated to the virtual campaign in varying amounts, and in the space of only two weeks, their collective donations yielded more than 14,800 pounds of rice.

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.

Like so many others, the committee members are acutely aware of a distressing reality: Amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, food banks nationwide are facing an unprecedented demand for resources—and the Maui Food Bank is no exception. That’s why they decided to take action with a focused initiative.

“While we would want everyone to be able to live in a world of abundance, there are too many who live in scarcity,” Shelton said. “It is an honor and a privilege to be able to give support to those in need through the outstanding efforts of the Maui Food Bank.” Pedro shares his sentiment. “With so much food insecurity in our community, I feel blessed to raise awareness of this issue,” she said. “It was inspiring to have my peers to join in this effort.”

Clapper agrees wholeheartedly. “It was so great to be part of a collective effort for a cause that is so close to Maui’s heart,” she said. “The Maui Food Bank plays such an integral part in keeping families fed during this time. With their limited resources and the increasing need in the community, we really wanted to be able to contribute something.”

The Maui Food Bank serves food-insecure residents countywide, including the rural communities of Hana, Molokai and Lanai, and its 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.

“I am grateful for the incredible work that the Maui Food Bank has done for our community during this challenging time,” Todd said. “The needs of our county have escalated to such incredible levels, but the Maui Food Bank has risen to meet those demands. I am honored to have had the chance to raise awareness and monetary donations for their efforts. Mahalo nui loa from RAM’s PR committee.”

The Got Rice? food drive may have come and gone, but it’s never too late to help the Maui Food Bank continue to provide hunger relief to residents in need. Now more than ever, donations are needed to meet the unprecedented demand: 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.

“It is such an honor to continue our support of the Maui Food Bank,” Sorenson said. “Right now, so many of our island ohana are in need of a basic need—food. Please, all of those who ‘can’ need to ‘do’ and send your contributions to the Maui Food Bank.”

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 31, 2020