By Léo Azambuja

Standing, left to right, KIFB Board Member Dennis Baier, Ammon Kakaziu, Executive Director Kelvin Moniz, Philip “Santa in Paradise” Worwa, Board President Lloyd Kajikawa, Board Member Cindy Ayonon, and Rudy Pagulayan. Seating, left to right, Board Member Rowena Cobb, Programs Manager Leona Perez and Board Member Georgette Galicinao-Cayaban

As the holiday season approaches, we dream of Christmas dinner parties, gifts, New Year’s resolutions, pumpkin spice lattes, turkey dinners, cranberry sauce and a lot more food than our bodies can — or should — handle.

But above all, the holiday season is a season of giving. It’s a season when we are more inspired to share our gratitude with loved ones and strangers. The folks at Kaua‘i Independent Food Bank are asking our community members to share their aloha during their annual Holiday Food Drive.

“We want to make sure everybody has a Thanksgiving dinner and a Christmas dinner with some type of food on their table,” said Kelvin Moniz, KIFB Executive Director. “That’s our main objective for this food drive.”

KIFB’s Holiday Food Drive kicked off Oct. 1, and will continue until the end of the year. Moniz said this special drive is also important because it helps to replenish the food bank’s shelves and refrigerators with food for the first three months of the year. This food will be used in KIFB’s key programs and also for emergencies.

“The holiday season is when more families are in need (of food),” said Leona Perez, KIFB Program Manager. Families usually spend money on Christmas gifts and sacrifice on food. “Whatever the situation is, more people during the holidays need food, and we need the community’s help.”

Perez said it’s hard to put a number on the food drive’s goal.

“Our goal would be to respond a need that we know of,” she said.

Usually, there is an influx of people seeking food at the end of each month, she said, and also when kids are home, in times such as school breaks, summer and especially during the holidays.

KIFB warehouse in Nawiliwili.

KIFB Board President Lloyd Kajikawa said despite Kaua‘i having a relatively small population, there is an “incredible” need for food here. According to KIFB, about 10 percent of the island’s community is food insecure, and as many as one out of six children do not have enough food. If KIFB and other organizations on Kaua‘i weren’t around, Kajikawa said, it would be a lot worse.

“We’re a very small organization that in my opinion does quite a lot for the community,” said Perez, adding that aside being a normal foodbank dealing with food distribution to the community, KIFB has other programs targeting specific, more vulnerable groups, such as keiki, or children, and kupuna, or elderly.

Kajikawa said a dietician helped the foodbank by setting up guidelines for each of the programs. For the Kupuna Program, benefitting between 130 and 150 senior citizens each month, for example, KIFB provides foods that are safe for those with high blood pressure or diabetes.

“So now, once we have these guidelines, then we can ask for certain foods for donation,” Kajikawa said.

For the Keiki Café, which reaches more than 750 schoolchildren every day, KIFB buys 98 to 99 percent of the food. Besides following healthy-food guidelines, Perez said, the program also wants to provide the same kinds of snacks for every child to avoid inequalities, so almost all the food in the Keiki Café has to be purchased. The same goes for the Backpack Program, which provides weekly backpacks filled with five to seven weekend meals to more than 240 keiki who are food insecure.

KIFB’s warehouse in Nawiliwili accepts food donations around the clock. After-hours donations of non-perishable items have to be placed in their drop box in front of the warehouse. The warehouse is equipped to accept to perishable items from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Non-perishable items can also be donated in any fire station on Kaua‘i.

KIFB also relies on several sponsors, grantors and community partners for food and funds. Some of the partners that have helped or continue to help KIFB include the Kaua‘i Board of Realtors, Sheraton’s Table 53 at RumFire, and many of the credit unions on the island.

There are also three orchards on the North Shore that KIFB visits every week to harvest produce.

“We utilize whatever fruits and vegetables we gather there for our programs,” Perez said.

Kajikawa said KIFB was formed when a group of volunteers got together after Hurricane ‘Iniki hit Kaua‘i in September 1992. Those volunteers served the community in the aftermath of ‘Iniki by creating a foodbank and distributing food to the community. In 1994, the same group of people incorporated the Kaua‘i Food Bank as a nonprofit organization. Then in 2011, the Hawai‘i Food Bank opened a branch on Kaua‘i. To avoid confusion, KIFB changed its name to Kaua‘i Independent Food Bank. It was around that time that KIFB decided to branch out from just distributing food to also developing various programs to different segments of the population.

“We are here to really support our community, and our community is really supportive of our Kauai Independent Food Bank,” said Moniz, adding they are very thankful of all their supporters and partners, including the hotel industry, the credit unions, the county of Kaua‘i and all the people on the island who support KIFB to feed the needy.

“During this Holiday Food Drive, it would be nice to have ham and turkey so we can get it out to the community,” Moniz said.

KIFB warehouse is 3285 Waapa Rd. in Nawiliwili. Visit kauaifoodbank.org or call (808) 246-3809 for more information.