The sky has been incredible lately. Yesterday afternoon it was a snakeskin pattern of white against deep blue, while this morning I awoke to a mustard-rose palette adorned with a silver moon whose roundness gave no hint that it was on the wane.
As the sun rose, a pearlescent convergence above Makaleha and Waialeale became a giant puffball of pink that slowly bled down onto the green faces of the mountains, causing them to blush.
An article that is no doubt embarrassing to the Kauai Independent Food Bank (KIFB) appeared last week in the Honolulu edition of MidWeek and is supposed to be published, with even more juicy details, in the issue that will start arriving in Kauai mailboxes today.
Penned by Bob Jones, the piece outlines the acrimonious split between the KIFB and the Hawaii Food Bank and gets into how KIFB had to repay a large federal grant, prompting the splashy headline: “Kauai Food Bank Misuses $779,000.” From what I hear, the state Attorney General’s office is now looking into the matter.
The article’s publication coincided with last Thursday’s blessing of the Hawaii Food Bank’s Kauai branch, which I attended, both because I work for an agency that has a food pantry and because I agreed to serve on the HFB’s Kauai community advisory board.
Though the KIFB gets more coverage in The Garden Island than any other nonprofit — perhaps because publisher Randy Kozerski serves on the KIFB board — virtually nothing has been reported locally about HFB's growing presence on Kauai or the reasons behind the split, save for a convoluted and misinformed piece in April 2010.
As a result of this virtual news blackout on the issue, Kauai folks seem to be confused about the presence of two food banks on our island. There’s also been some negativity directed toward the HFB, like it’s trying to muscle in on KIFB’s turf, and even some mistruths spread, like the food and money collected here is sent to Oahu. It's not.
In fact, nearly all of the agencies that distribute food to those who need it — a whopping 18 percent of Kauai residents — have welcomed HFB for one simple reason: it has provided us with more food and better food, like meat and regular supplies of fresh fruits and veggies.
And since nearly all the pantries have a shortage of storage space, we’ve also benefited from having HFB deliver frozen and chill items on our distribution days. That alone has made a huge difference in the quality and quantity of food that we can give out.
Like most of the other pantries, I shop at both food banks because I have only one interest: getting food for the 300 or so people who come to our pantry each month. Without the HFB, there would have been numerous times in the past year when I wouldn’t have had enough food, and would have had to turn folks away empty-handed.
Though the focus has been on the dirt and politics of the split between the two food banks, let’s not lose sight of the real issue, and that’s feeding the growing numbers of people who need food. Contrary to what some might think, the overwhelming majority aren’t homeless derelicts or freeloaders, but working people who are struggling to survive and feed their families in this crappy economy.
I keep remembering what a man said when I was collecting money for the Hawaii Food Bank outside Safeway a few weeks ago. He was supposed to pay for the pre-packaged bag of groceries inside the store, but gave me the money to buy it instead, saying, “It doesn’t matter who pays, just so long as someone gets fed.”
Right now, both food banks are feeding people, so it doesn't really matter which one you support. But it costs a lot of money to keep the trucks, refrigerators and freezers running, and so eventually, one of the food banks is going to shut its doors, or perhaps re-shape its mission.
My guess is that the HFB is here to stay, in part because it is carrying a little less baggage and has access to a lot more resources. And when it comes to procuring food for the hungry, that’s a very good thing.