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Food Basket Backpack program feeds more than 1,100 keiki

(Photo courtesy of The Food Basket)

(Photo courtesy of The Food Basket)


The Food Basket, Hawaii Island’s food pantry, will begin its annual backpack program in October, to help provide school children with backpacks full of nutritious food on a regular basis.

A nationwide initiative that the state adopted five years ago, the program has served more than 450 children in two schools during the last two years.

“On the Big Island, we have five elementary schools with free and reduced lunch registrations over 90 percent,” said En Young, The Food Basket (TFB) Executive Director. “The school with the highest utilization is at 97 percent.”

Part of the National School Lunch Program that provides meals to children on school days, the Free and Reduced-Price Lunch Program requires registration, and can therefore help measure food needs of a particular school and community.

“Free and reduced lunch kids tend to get their most nutritious meal at school, so we stuff a backpack full of canned food, beverages and snacks for them to take home—especially over long weekends. We try to do this at least once a month, and every other week before summer,” Young said.

Young said this year, with support from the Food Bank, Hawaii Island United Way and a very generous private grant, TFB will be able to expand the backpack program to three schools and more than 1,100 keiki in the Puna and South Kona Districts. Every child in the school may receive a backpack, without being labeled as needy.

“We qualify the school rather than the individual,” Young said.

According to TFB website:

* Not having enough food to sustain a healthy life is a reality for 1 in 8 Americans. This includes children and seniors.

* The lack of proper nutrition affects the cognitive and behavioral development of children.

* According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, limited resources prevent more than 36 million Americans from getting enough food.

In Hawaii specifically:

* 32 percent of those served by TFB have had to choose between food and rent or mortgage bills, 27 percent between food and medicine or medical needs.

* Among households with children, 67 percent are food insecure, including 31% who are experiencing hunger.

* 11 percent of adults served are elderly (65 or older).

* 25 percent of households served had one or more children under age 18; and 6 percent of households served had one or more children age 5 or under.

* 63 percent of client households have a monthly income below $1,000.

“It’s important for us to help the public become more aware of what we do,” Young said. “For us, we want people to know that the need is there, and even if we can’t serve everybody, The Food Basket can make a difference, and help feed hungry kids.”

The Food Basket is an island-wide, supplemental food network that, in partnership with numerous community organizations, collects and distributes nutritious, high-quality food to low-income households, the working poor, senior citizens, children, people who are disabled or ill, and other members of the Big Island’s most vulnerable populations.

Programs include regularly scheduled soup kitchens and food pantries in East and West Hawaii.

For more information, or to make a donation, call 933-6060 or visit:

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