Friday, October 31, 2014

Musings: Thoroughly Tricked

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.


Anonymous said...

Rome, Italy - Enough food to feed two billion people is wasted every year, leading UN agencies to create a new interactive platform to try to reduce the losses, which could easily feed the world's 800 million who go hungry.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this eye-opening report, Joan. As a former member of a non-profit entity unrelated to any of these in your article, I am curious as to what type of "financial irregularities" and misuse of grant funds was thought to be occurring at KIFB.

Anonymous said...

In agency meetings, i remember Judy telling us this story. "HFB left Kauai when we needed them the most, leaving us with nothing". I recall her asking us about how we felt about HFB coming back to the island. A lot of us thought it was a good thing. More food to feed our communities. When she found out that most of us were signing up/or already had signed up with HFB, she asked to see the registration packets and asked us questions. We didn't want anything to do with it. As one agency rep mentioned "when 2 elephants fight, the grass gets trampled". That's the truth. After that meeting we noticed our agency portions dwindle down. From 4 cases per item, to 2. Other agencies noticed this also.
I am thankful for HFB coming back to the island. They continue to support our community, we should support them.

Joan Conrow said...

According to the July 24, 2007 letter from the state Office of Community Services, demanding repayment, the misuse of grant funds was associated with the Senior Farmers' Market Nutrition Program. KIFB improperly charged for administrative costs, when only food costs were allowed under the grant, and also marked up its food costs.

KIFB was dinged for doing this because it had agreed to comply with all state and federal laws relating to the grant, and it did not.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the report today on KIFB. I too am completely frustrated at the waste, duplication and bullshit perpetrated by this rogue outfit.

Once again people are too gutless to withhold public support.

Anonymous said...

Doesn't the County food drive go to KIFB? Do they give to both or only to KIFB? Why?

Anonymous said...

As a former worker for the FB in a pilot program, that took grant funds, I was coerced into leaving said position in favor of someone connected to the then directors political affiliation.

I was also privy to other documents that you don't have and will never see. Mostly, because those went into the lovely shredder that was always constantly humming along upstairs in the Nawiliwili Warehouse.

I also remember the rotten food days as well. This time, Joan I have nothing to rag on you for. This time, you are spot on. Took guts to write this post, and will cause lots of huhu. I never wanted to think the director was doing anything wrong.

I am pretty shocked at what has happened, and feel embarrassed for my association, and feel used.

How about a full expose on the director? Or former director? Or has that one been ad nauseum already?

Anyway, this time, no complaints, and I do agree with you. it is great to see you doing these kinds of articles. This reminds me of the kind of reporting you used to do way back in 97 and 98. Absolutely love it.

Please write more of these articles! This is the kind of history we need to be educating newcomers about.

Costco should donate, and not throw out all of that food!

I believe if the county is going with KIFB it is because of political affiliations, I believe it is the Republican wing of the administration.

I do know that since the director was a Republican, that most connections were conservative Republicans, and that may be why , or maybe because of the name, Kauai independent Foodbank. I also recall, that Jimmy was also a Republican at that time, I am unsure if he still is, or if he switched to democrat.

I would much rather see people getting fresh food, that is healthy for them!

I hope to read more about this issue!

Anonymous said...

Were KIFB discrepancies intentional?
Sometimes, regulations are confusing.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

I'm guilty, did a food/fund drive at my job for KIFB. Wasn't much but we all felt good thinking they were "Kauai's" foodbank and the bad guys were the other foodbank from Oahu. We fell for the rhetoric being blabbed by Kelvin, and I left after dropping off the donations thinking that the other foodbank was muscling itself into their territory for no good reason other than it could. I even believed that if I had donated to HFB, my money would be used on Oahu instead of Kauai. I asked around and everyone I knew believed the same thing.

How f***ing dumb could I have been??? I feel absolutely nauseous now thanks to this post cause I wonder about where my donations went as well as my co-workers. But I'm trying not to beat myself up knowing I've been had but it's kinda hard to swallow thinking that I was advocating for KIFB and i most certainly look like a total idiot to my co-workers and boss now. I feel dirty. In reading Joan's post, I can't believe that politician's like Tokioka were also snowed. You'd think they would have more insight into putting their name/face on an embarrassing entity. Even the county and how their food drive is going to KIFB and not HFB. Pretty disgusting all the way around.

Worst yet is KONG Radio and hearing Ron Wiley going on and on about KIFB. He always claims to be honest as can be, but come on, his backing of KIFB makes me think Ron has a screw loose. But like me and most people I know, it wouldn't be far fetched that he believed the lies too. So Ron if you read this, please do the right thing have KONG radio pull all of their ads for KIFB and run some positive stuff about HFB. This would be a start to righting the wrong in this community.

So people of Kauai, let's start doing the right thing by supporting Kauai's legitimate food bank. I know I will. But first I must email this blog to all of my co-workers and boss so that they know the truth too. And hopefully I won't be the office idiot cause I didn't know.

SO SORRY HFB AND SHAME ON YOU KIFB!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

So what happened with the $779,393? Was it repaid?

Joan Conrow said...

Yes, it was repaid.

Anonymous said...

I sure hope that Mayor Carvalho and the council aren't backing this makeshift bunch of crooks at KIFB. This should be an eye-opener to the voters on Kauai. Thank you Joan for uncovering the truth once again. You've been the only light in the darkness surrounding Kauai and it's dirty laundry. My kid came home with a flyer from the A+ program asking for food donations to benefit KIFB just this week. You can bet that we won't be sending any their way.

Anonymous said...

interesting to see Peter Yukimura listed as an Advisory Board member for KFB in 1994 and now he's with HFB. He obviously knows something we don't.

Anonymous said...

I tried to told you all back in 2010 on this blog that KFB (KIFB) was another non profit gone bad on Kauai. Greed has destroyed many and it's the same things that's going on in our county government that's made te county of Kauai go bankrupt. The administration and council finding ways to nickel and dime the citizens through outrageous tax schemes.

Yeah so go vote and cheer for your high school friends and family so they can give you non educated county welfare recipients jobs that you sloths are not qualified for.

Non profit hahaha all of you Kauai hoohz are Tricks! especially the syndicate slaves.

Anonymous said...

Regarding church pantries and heavy lifting, I would like to add to your summary that when it comes to providing prepared meals, Lihue Lutheran Church and The Salvation Army do a bit of heavy lifting.

Joan Conrow said...

Yes, they most certainly do!

Lihue Lutheran Church and The Salvation Army are among about 30 certified agencies that get food from Hawaii Foodbank - Kauai Branch. The agencies then distribute it to to the needy through pantries, hot meals and other service programs of their choosing.

The HFB-Kauai certified agencies do a tremendous job of serving the hungry.

Anonymous said...

There is no way that Judy lied or Kelvin continues to lie, your documents are fabricated and your blog sucks

Anonymous said...

Rotary Club - I sure hope you read this. As strong supporters of KIFB for many years because Judy was a member, here's your chance to save face. And to the Prosecutor Justin Kollar, I hope this gets your attention and you don't fall victim to the political purgatory they call the Lihue Rotary Club. Grow a pair and tell them what's up

irk said...

i remember way back when bob jones was a tv news anchor with kgmb
saw this when i was wrapping up the fish guts three summers ago

Joan Conrow said...

6:19 -- I know denial runs deep, but the documents aren't fabricated. I have many more, and the repayment letter from the state is a public record.

Irk, thanks for the links. I'd forgotten about the Bob Jones columns.

And 9:29, in defense of Justin Kollar, he actually did get the Lihue Rotary Club to donate to the HFB-Kauai branch for the first time.

Anonymous said...

So the island-wide "leave your non-perishable food donations at any fire station" program, sends all those donations to KIFB?

Egad...shame on our County!!

How can we make donations of non-perishable food to KFB instead?

Joan Conrow said...

Yes, all food left at the fire stations goes to KIFB.

You can donate non-perishable food items to the legit Hawaii Foodbank Kauai branch at their warehouse, 4241-A Hanahao Place, just up the block from Mark's Place in the Puhi Industrial Park. Or call them at 482-2224 M-F to schedule a pick up or conduct a food drive.

Anonymous said...

We wouldn't need any food banks if the current "Rulers" of the government would allow business to thrive and jobs to be created but they are on a mission to create a permanent "underclass" of dependent voters.

Anonymous said...

I know Chief Westerman and he's a great man, I refuse to believe that he had any knowledge of KIFB being what it is. But Chief if you're reading this remove them from your fire stations now! Your department does need any more embarrassing distractions.

And to anyone else who has been supporting KIFB like the articles in the newspaper reference, please stop too. ASIDE from the First Hawaiian Bank article, there's Kauai Marriott, all the credit unions including Kauai Govt Employees and Kauai Community FCU. Making me feel shame for them but if they know all this and still support them shame, shame, shame!

I sure hope all the schools don't support KIFB too because you're teaching kids to support a dishonest food bank. Principals and Kauai Superintendent Arakaki please do the right thing for once. You already have the school lunch issue, don't let KIFB bring you some bad vibes too


Anonymous said...

Does the county fund KIFB in any way? I sure hope not because the that would mean the administration and council had to approve it.

Let me know so I can vote appropriately

Anonymous said...

I saw the newly branded Independent Foodbank with a new logo and supposed new direction with another plug from TGI. Most of the BOD are the same from before so I don't think there any real changes happening and certainly not in the integrity department.

Anonymous said...

Here's my story...I came to kauai with my husband and 3 kids almost 2 years ago. He has family here so we thought we were leaving the big city life for a better one here, boy was I wrong. Within the 1st month, my husband found an old girlfriend and did not come home. We were staying with his cousin in Lihue and he moved in with the ex. I felt degraded, embarrassed, and so alone here on an island where I only knew his relatives. His cousin was sweet and told me we could stay as long as we needed, but you could tell she didn't really want me there. I didn't have money, no job, and I had 3 hungry kids to feed. Luckily the bastard left me our car and while I was driving one day I saw the Independent Food bank and decided to stop. I was so ashamed to walk inside and it took everything I had to finally walk in. I meet this lady in the front office and ask her if I could get some food for my kids. She says that they aren't giving out any food. I try to tell her my situation but she was busy talking to some other guy (big local) I think was her boss and they pretty much ignored me. I try my best not to cry in front of them and the guy finally tells me to go to the other food bank in Puhi because they don't give out food here. I leave holding back the tears and take the longest walk ever back to the car. I see my kids looking at me and start crying. I get in the car and my kids ask if I got any food and I tell them they didn't have any. I felt like such a failure in life and did not know what to do. I felt so humiliated and I really wished I were dead. I drive around a bit and make my way to Puhi and find the Hawaii Foodbank. I park and wait about 1/2 hour in the car trying to convince myself that I need to go and ask these other strangers for some food and could not bear to think of going through the same thing again. Finally after my son told me to just try and ask for a little bit, I walk in. I'm met by this guy but i can't remember his name. He said he ran the warehouse. He asked me if I needed some help and I told him I needed food for my kids. He said sure no problem. I could not believe what I just heard. It was like all the weight of the world had been lifted from my shoulders. He asked how many kids I had, their ages, and if they were allergic to anything. I answered all of his questions and he started to get some food together for me. I broke down in tears because I was so ashamed that I was there and he told me that there was no need to feel ashamed. The food bank was there for folks who find themselves in need. He asked if my kids could have some ice cream and brought some out to my kids and they were so happy. I cried some more. I told him I went to the other food bank and they didn't give me anything. He couldn't say why they didn't give anything but not to worry because I could get food here. He then referred me to a shelter and a number of churches that he said could help with clothing and a place to stay. He loaded my car with milk, cereal, bread, eggs, apples and all kinds of other food that I could not believe he was giving me. I told him it was too much and he said he wanted to make sure the kids had enough food. I cried so much and gave him a hug. As I drove out, my kids were singing and eating while I tried to stop crying. It was the 1st time I ever asked anyone for help and it was the most humbling experience of my life. I received help from a couple of churches and my sister paid for us to return to Cali. Since then, I am divorced and I found a good job. My kids are doing well and although I still receive assistance, we are on our way to a better life. I am so thankful for the Hawaii Food Bank for being there when I needed some help. And most especially for not making me feel like I felt when I went to the Independent Food Bank. I still cry when I think about that day. Thanks also to Joan for writing this blog and shedding some light about that food bank. It's true.