Pre-pandemic, employees created attractive themed food collection sites as part of an annual contest among departments to raise canned goods and funds for local food banks.

Feeding the hungry in our communities

by Sharon Higa | Dec. 28, 2022

(Hawaiian diacritical marks included to appreciate the full story.)

Every year since I joined Hawaiian Electric nearly two decades ago, I’ve been impressed that our employees annually hold food drives to collect monetary donations and food staples like rice, SPAM and other canned goods, as well as locally grown produce for the most vulnerable in our communities.

Even during the pandemic when the need increased by more than 50%, food drives continued — albeit virtually — to raise money for local food banks across our service areas. Personally, I think we have some of the most generous employees working at Hawaiian Electric along with a corporate donation program and charitable arm that also gives generously to nonprofits that are helping to feed the needy.

When it comes to having enough food to eat, the statistics for the state are alarming and heartbreaking. Nearly a quarter of a million Hawaii residents are currently struggling with hunger. Among them are out-of-work parents, isolated kupuna and 1 in 4 keiki.

From a previous year food drive by Hawaiian Electric employees on Maui for the Maui Food Bank.

For the past few years Farron Cabral, a budget analyst and system administrator for our Maui County operations has been helping with our company’s local food drive efforts there, which supports the Maui Food Bank.

“I live near the homeless shelter and have helped serve meals to the residents, so I feel like this gives me a first-hand experience to see the need within our community up close,” Farron said. “I think that collecting food and holding food drives within our company is a great way for employees to really make a direct impact of providing a basic human necessity — food. Every bit counts and it’s awesome to see folks giving so generously.”

Part of an online promo for the employee giving campaign in 2022 to raise funds for local food banks.

Since 2019 Lynne Okazaki, an enterprise operations services analyst, has been organizing Hawaiian Electric’s food drive campaign to benefit the Hawaii Foodbank on Oahu. “COVID shifted us to online donations which simplified the process,” she said. “The Hawaii Foodbank preferred monetary donations as they could purchase the food and have less handling of it since they were also short of volunteers and most of our employees were working from home.”

Along with financial contributions, Hawaii Island employees also helped provide dry goods and staples to The Food Basket in November before the Thanksgiving holiday.

Dave Kurohara, a business & community consultant for our Hawaii Island operation, has led the employee food and fund drive for The Food Basket going on two years and assisted with other drives in the past. “Helping raise funds and food donations within our work environment provides an opportunity for our employees to give generously to a worthy cause. We’re hoping to curb hunger by doing this one small gesture.”

In November during the 2022 season of giving, employee fundraising efforts to benefit the Maui Food Bank, The Food Basket — Hawaii Island’s Food Bank, and the Hawaii Foodbank raised enough funds to provide the equivalent of 8,777 meals and 880 pounds of food! On top of that, the HEI matching grant program nearly doubled the number of meals and pounds of food donated.

Also in November, Hawaiian Electric’s corporate and charitable foundation donations totaled about $47,500 to support the Hawaii Foodbank, Susannah Wesley Community Center, Institute for Human Services, Aloha Harvest and the Hawaii Meals on Wheels nonprofits and their programs that contribute to increasing food security for the hungry.

We know the struggle to end hunger is a year-round battle. Let’s all do our part to help our vulnerable neighbors and community because we have the power to fight hunger, together. Aʻohe hana nui ke alu ʻia — No task is too small when done together by all.

Sharon Higa is a senior communications consultant at Hawaiian Electric Company.

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Established in 1891, Hawaiian Electric is committed to empowering its customers and communities by providing affordable, reliable, clean and sustainable energy.