Staggering; stunning. Those are just two words to describe my sense of sadness after reading in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser last week that 20% of Hawaii residents are in need of food help from the Hawaii Food Bank and related service providers. The national average shows that just over 14% of all people in this country rely on food programs, a sobering reminder that our nation is plagued with underfed people. It's the unemployed or under-employed, it's the disabled, it's the elderly; it could very well be your neighbor or someone you love or live with.
And while Hawaii's unemployment rate of 4.4% is one of the lowest of any state in the country, we still have far too many people making weekly or monthly decisions about how to pay the rent or feeding the family, because sometimes they can't do both. There are no simple solutions, but doing what you can to help ease the problem, if you can help, is most assuredly a sign of aloha and empathy. The need for canned goods and fresh produce is a daily need, so while food drives are great, they are short-lived, the need is always there, every day.
Perhaps when you go to the grocery store and see a two-for-one sale or a great deal, you pick up the extra one for the Hawaii Foodbank. Perhaps you bring a special recyclable bag with you each week when you shop, and earmark certain items for donation as you peruse the aisles. Then, make a weekly drop off at the nearest food service location part of your schedule or routine, not just when the call goes out for help. If you make it part of your shopping plan, you will make a difference- and not just during holiday season or the office food drive- but all the time. The number of people needing food here is staggering, and it's real. Can you help? Over a quarter of a million people and the economically-stressed food providers will surely appreciate it. Think about it.