‘Hunger Never Takes Summer Vacation’

Kelvin Moniz: Community support has been egg-cellent

Once again, Kaua’i folks step up to help the growing number of individuals and families struggling to put food on the table every day

Three simple statements make up the Kaua’i Food Bank mission: Prevent hunger, provide nutritious food and respond to emergencies.

“The demand for food went up almost 50 percent this year,” says Kelvin Moniz, director of operations at the food bank and co-chair of the Kaua’i Food Bank board of directors summer food drive.

“We need food and money more than ever.”

It’s the economy, he says, for there’s no mistaking the competence of this community-responsive, independently incorporated nonprofit organization.

Kaua’i Food Bank is the smallest food bank in the state, yet it feeds the largest percentage of the total population in any county. In more than 16 years of uninterrupted service, KFB has distributed 11.7 million pounds of food valued at more than $18 million – an estimated 9.2 million meals – to about 50 distributors such as churches or other nonprofit organizations.

KFB programs address ways to make sure needy children receive nutritious food and snacks after school, and to take home for the weekend.

Its programs help secure new food stamp dollars for those who are eligible but haven’t been receiving them, and there’s an award-winning vocational rehabilitation component that provides job training and skill building.

Also noteworthy, Kaua’i Food Bank is the only food bank in the state accredited by the Better Business Bureau.

Kelvin Moniz and Derek Kawakami

And it couldn’t be in better operational hands than those of Waimea-born and Kaumakani-raised Moniz, according to Judy Lenthall, executive director since 1995.

Prior to coming on board, Moniz had a 20-year career in the U.S. Army that reaps benefits for KFB.

“I managed movement of supplies, foods, fuel and ammunition accounts for over 5,000 people at a time,” he says.

So when the Kaua’i Marriott wants to donate 8,000 pounds of food, or Big Save, Safeway, Foodland or Koa Trading calls to say, “Hey, we’ve got four pallets of eggs for you guys,” it’s no problem, says Moniz – just another opportunity.

At any time, a Kaua’i Food Bank food and funding drive is important, but during the summer, especially when keiki and youths are not in school benefiting from KFB programs, it’s imperative.

Says Moniz, “Hunger never takes a vacation during summer.”

So this past Saturday 10 supermarket locations islandwide, Kaua’i Food Bank went out to fulfill its mission big time. As always, Kaua’i folks stepped up to help their own, with about 200 volunteers – individual, church and service-club volunteers – at 10 supermarket locations island-wide on street corners.

Companies doing business on the island also are behind the effort, including Big Save, Ishihara Market, Kmart, Walmart, Foodland and Safeway.

“Big Save Inc. has been supportive of Kaua’i Food Bank for a long time,” says Derek Kawakami, co-chair of the drive. By day, he’s the assistant operations manager of the Kaua’i-based, Kawakami family-owned supermarket chain.

And he has another community obligation.

“I’m on the County Council – I hear stories about SNAP and the Back Pack Program,” says Kawakami, describing two of the KFB programs affecting keiki and youths.

Volunteers Punani Planas and Siarah Perreira

“My wife is a school-teacher, and she sees firsthand how tough it is with families struggling with things we take for granted. It’s all our responsibility to kokua. It’s the Hawaiian way.”

Kawakami, tapped earlier by KFB to work on its capital campaign, was a natural to co-chair of this drive.

“As far as in the future, I’m there with whatever the Kaua’i Food Bank wants help with,” says Kawakami. “They know they can count on me.

“It’s one of those organizations impossible not to help when they ask. It’s also the heart – these guys are doing this with love.”

Other community-minded sponsors include A’akukui Ranch, Wilcox Hospital, Roberts Jewelry, Kaua’i Marriott, Syngenta, Pioneer, Kaua’i County Council, Oceanic, Rob’s Good Time Grill, Kaua’i Visitors Bureau, Ele’ele Shopping Center, Kapa’a Shopping Center, Inkspot Printing and (we’re proud to say) MidWeek.

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