Categorized | Agriculture

Thinking inside the box: Island style


The Food Basket, Hawaii Island’s Food Bank, is connecting local farmers and local consumers to alleviate some of the barriers to nutrition and self-sustainability on Hawaii Island.

Through collective buying power, The Food Basket will be able to leverage its existing distribution to bring a box of 8-12 pounds of produce to consumers at a competitive price.

“It’s a win-win-win-win situation,” said En Young, Executive Director of The Food Basket. “We needed to look at how best to serve our friends and neighbors, and expanding our economic impact through sourcing our products locally made a lot of sense.”

The project, called “Hoolaha Ka Hua,” or propagating fruit, will operate much like a Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) program.

The added innovations are the expansion to the entire farm community in Hawaii County and the inclusion of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefit (SNAP-EBT) acceptance.

The Food Basket, in this case, acts more as a community aggregator, offering opportunities for collaboration between farmers who grow the same product but cannot fill institutional or retail orders, encouraging the expansion of production.

“By utilizing SNAP dollars, we are bringing in Federal tax dollars into our Hawaii Island economy,” said Young. “The more dollars we get into local farmers’ hands, the higher the expectation that supporting businesses like our local farm equipment and supply can succeed. We hope that will mean more jobs and a better outlook for everyone. Plus, the farmers love it.”

“At Hamakua Mushrooms, we are honored and privileged to partner with The Food Basket to feed the hungry across our island communities,” said Lani Weigert, Director of Marketing and Community Relations for Hamakua Mushrooms, a local mushroom farmer. “We applaud our Hawaii Island Food Bank for supporting local farms, while providing the freshest grown produce to those in need.”

The Food Basket began distributing fresh, grade “A” produce through its senior program, collecting experience on what works and doesn’t work for such a distribution system.

The program currently serves more than 1,500 low-income seniors on island, purchasing more than 150,000 pounds/year. After several years of implementation, the agency believes it is time to bring the product to all residents of Hawaii Island.

“The response to our senior program has been tremendous and we wanted to be able to offer that to everybody,” Young said. “We believe that through this program we can affect the island’s economy on a much larger scale.”

Many farms try to implement CSA’s because they see the benefit of direct purchasing to their farms, he said.

“The problem is that many of them are not marketing or cooking professionals, nor do they have the additional experiences necessary to get their product recognized or make it user-friendly for the consumer. Also, with The Food Basket serving over 7,000 individuals a month we can create the economy of scale needed,” he said.

“With our product, we have gone truly community-based, bringing in great partners like Kaiser Permanente, the Department of Health, the Kohala Center, the Wallace Center, the County of Hawaii, Hope Services, the University of Hawaii Agribusiness Incubator Program, and so many other resources to try and create an experience that will be worthwhile for the consumer and grower,” Young said.

“We can touch nutrition and food access issues, provide stability and steady market for training programs; there really is tremendous opportunity in this project,” he said. “Our goal is to put Hawaii Island one step closer to where we should be; leading the State’s agricultural sector and developing the model for self-sufficiency that was once the norm.”

For more information on Hoolaha Ka Hua or to join, contact The Food Basket at (808) 933-6030, or visit and click on the “Get Your Box” button.

One Response to “Thinking inside the box: Island style”

  1. Olena Adams says:

    I have a lot of avacodos . I will donate them. ….where Olena Adams


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