It's Halloween, a time when people hide their true identity, pretend to be something they're not and beg for treats under threat of tricks. Which provides the perfect opportunity to rip the mask off the Kauai Independent Food Bank.
I've been hesitant to divulge the gore, thinking surely folks would wise up. But I had to say something after seeing one too many newspaper fluff pieces, especially those that include ignorant quotes from people who should know better:
Following Hurricane Iniki, there were two food banks on Kauai, said Rep. James Tokioka. One left, while the other, through the support of the community, remained.
Here's what really happened.
First, there was the Hawaii Food Bank (HFB), which was founded on Oahu in 1983. It expanded to Maui and Hawaii Island, and then came to Kauai in 1992 to assist after Hurricane Iniki.
In 1994, HFB helped set up a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization so Kauai could have its own food bank, like the other islands. It was called the Kauai Foodbank. HFB provided the Kauai start-up with grant funding, equipment, a warehouse lease and food. Over the years, HFB continued to support KFB with food and money, along with Maui and Hawaii Island.
HFB became aware that KFB had engaged in financial irregularities that jeopardized the Feeding America contract — the major source of food for food banks nationwide — for the entire state. In 2009, HFB officers — acting as Feeding America auditors — attempted to conduct a financial and operations audit of KFB. But they were stopped at the door by KFB staff and barred from completing their audit.
To protect the Feeding America contract, HFB completely severed its ties with Kauai Foodbank in 2010. KFB renamed itself the Kauai Independent Food Bank (KIFB). The KIFB board of directors eventually dumped executive director Judith Lenthall, but not before she talked a lot of shit, like how HFB had abandoned Kauai and “left us with debt” and “no food.” As I noted previously, and as these documents show, that is entirely false.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) also ended its contract with KIFB, as did Feeding America. Ultimately, KIFB was ordered to repay $779,393 to the state, and thousands more to the feds, because it had misused grant funds.
Meanwhile, in July 2010, HFB opened the Hawaii Foodbank – Kauai Branch in a modern new warehouse in Puhi. HFB wanted to ensure that needy Kauai residents would continue to get food, and it is mandated by its Feeding America contract to serve all four counties.
Nearly all the food wholesalers and grocery stores on Kauai (Times/Big Save, Foodland, Safeway, Walmart, Kmart, Meadow Gold, Koa Trading, HFA, etc.), have chosen to donate their merchandise only to HFB-Kauai. Costco, shockingly, throws away everything but its baked goods.
Furthermore, HFB-Kauai is the sole conduit for the essential food support provided by the USDA and Feeding America. This is important, because if there's another hurricane, emergency supplies from those agencies will be distributed through HFB-Kauai only.
The churches, nonprofit organizations and other groups that run the major food pantries that distribute food directly to the needy also have aligned with HFB-Kauai.
Why? Because they are getting more food — 1,023,424 pounds in 2013, to be exact — and much better food from HFB-Kauai than was ever available at KIFB. Some of the church pantries were also repelled by KIFB's unethical business practices.
In a letter to the editor of TGI, the largest food pantries on Kauai explained why they had chosen HFB-Kauai over the KIFB:
HFB-Kauai has had an extremely positive impact on our food pantries since it opened its own Puhi warehouse in July 2010. We now have a steady, dependable source of quality food. We can always get fresh fruits and vegetables, along with dairy products, meats, canned foods and other packaged items.
Meanwhile, our costs have gone down dramatically because HFB-Kauai does not charge us for juice, dairy and many other items. HFB-Kauai also does regular “ohana drops” that distribute thousands of pounds of free food.
Since the agencies split in 2010, KIFB has been focusing on straightening out its legal problems and repaying its misused funds. Though it serves few beyond its school backpack program, it continues to promote a public charade that it's feeding the hungry, while using your cash donations to buy food at Costco. The Garden Island perpetuates the myth by constantly running publicity photos for KIFB.
Unfortunately, KIFB staff continue to talk stink and spread lies, like HFB collects money and food on Kauai and sends it to Oahu. In fact, the reverse is true. ALL food and money collected on Kauai stays here and is fortunately augmented by Oahu, because it's not enough to meet the growing demand.
Meanwhile, in the real world, HFB-Kauai Branch is doing ALL the heavy lifting in this community. It supplies nearly all the food that is distributed to the hungry on Kauai — an effort that is subsidized by Oahu. Real gratitude is due the Board of Directors and administration of HFB-Oahu for their commitment to Kauai.
KIFB manages to limp along only because Kauai folks have misplaced loyalty to the KIFB staff and board, and an unwarranted distrust of Oahu. Kauai residents are wasting precious resources by continuing to support an agency that is horribly inefficient and will never again be able to operate a viable food warehouse.
I'm sorry to be so blunt, folks, but when it comes to KIFB, you've been thoroughly tricked. KIFB is a ghost, with no substance or solidity. So quit rewarding its bad behavior by giving it treats, like money and food! Instead, help pick up the slack and donate to HawaiiFoodbank – Kauai Branch, where it will do the most good for the needy in this community.