Ten thousand people. That’s how many men, women and children are served by the Maui Food Bank countywide—including the rural communities of Hana, Molokai and Lanai—every month.
Through its network of more than 120 partner agencies and programs, the nonprofit organization collects and distributes food to individuals, families, children and youth, seniors, the homeless—anyone who is at risk of going hungry.
That’s one of the reasons why Karin Carlson of NextHome Pacific Properties decided to join the Maui Food Bank’s board of directors last month. She was also encouraged to join by two fellow Realtors® Association of Maui members who also serve on the board: Tom Tezak of Wailea Realty Corp. A Boutique of Windermere Real Estate and Mark Harbison of Coldwell Banker Island Properties, who currently serves as the board chair. “Both Mark and Tom are so enthusiastic about the Maui Food Bank and their role to serve…how could you not want to join?” she said.
Since then, Carlson says she’s learned a lot about the organization. “I was so impressed that the Maui Food Bank accepts so many more items than the standard non-perishable and canned food donations,” she said. “The Maui Food Bank also accepts baby food, pet food, produce, as well as many non-food items. And the Maui Food Bank is the source for so many programs on Lanai and Molokai.”
The Maui Food Bank’s programs include monthly food deliveries to underserved areas, a senior mobile pantry, a holiday meal program and the Aloha BackPack Buddies program, which provides healthy weekend meals to students from food-insecure homes throughout the academic year. (Children who are on their school’s free and reduced priced meal program can pick up a pre-filled backpack on Friday afternoons; it contains six meals they can take home with them for the weekend.)
Harbison joined the Maui Food Bank board of directors in 2010; he was elected board chair in 2014 and again in 2017. Among other things, he has been active in promoting and running the Rotary Club of Kihei-Wailea’s food drives at the Piilani Village Shopping Center Safeway since the store opened; he has also sponsored Rotary district grants for a number of Maui Food Bank projects. “My favorites are a grant to provide meat packing services for a donated cow, and multiple grants to fund the Backpack Buddies pilot and the Kihei Youth Center’s Keiki Kitchen after school program,” he said. “Needless to say, I believe food security is one of our most pressing social issues.”
Harbison emphasized the pivotal role the Maui Food Bank plays in supporting its 120-plus agency and nonprofit partners. “The Maui Food Bank is not only the superstore for its partners, but also plays an important role in capacity building and demonstrating best practices,” he explained. “This is a truly symbiotic relationship in which our wide range of partners ensures that food reaches as many people as possible who are dealing with food insecurity.”
And since he came on board in 2010, Harbison says he has been inspired by the compassion of others. “I am continually impressed with the generosity of Maui people, including the amazing support of our visitors,” he said. “Maui Rotary Clubs and other organizations participate in statewide food drives during the holidays and in the spring, and every year I am amazed at how the number of Maui businesses sponsoring food drives just keeps growing, along with the number of people who give. Food security is a fundamental human right, and yet the problem of food insecurity is growing, along with the island of Maui. The support of the community, including our visitors, has enabled the Maui Food Bank to grow and to initiate and expand new programs, such as Aloha Backpack Buddies and our recent summer food program.”
Summer break is right around the corner; Harbison says providing meals for kids who are out of school will be an immediate challenge for the Maui Food Bank. You can provide hunger relief for those in need by making a monetary donation or holding a food drive at your business, school, place of worship, community service club or in your neighborhood anytime of the year. To learn more about the Maui Food Bank or to inquire about donor or volunteer opportunities, visit www.mauifoodbank.org or call 243-9500.
By Sarah Ruppenthal
Published in The Maui News – May 19, 2018