In an ideal world, the beautiful island of Maui would be free from hunger. But unfortunately, that's not the case. Instead, hunger impacts thousands of Maui County residents. That's why Maui Food Bank was formed nearly 20 years ago.
The Maui Food Bank is Maui County's primary safety net for hunger relief. Our mission is simple and direct: "To help the hungry in Maui County by collecting and distributing food through community partnerships." To make the best possible use of resources, the Maui Food Bank has developed a unique system of partnerships with more than 100 agencies and programs. This collaborative network approach makes it possible for the food bank to operate a comprehensive and efficient, community-wide food distribution program on a surprisingly cost-effective basis.
Our administrative load is unusually small, in fact, 95.7 percent of everything we bring in, including financial contributions, goes directly to programs and services. The balance - which is just 4.3 percent - goes to fundraising and administrative costs. That's a ratio that's virtually unheard of in the nonprofit world, and it's made possible by our partner network and our small army of dedicated volunteers.
The Maui Food Bank provides hunger relief to more than 10,000 needy people per month throughout Maui County, including Hana (Maui's most rural area), Lanai and Molokai. This year the Maui Food Bank distributed an impressive 2 million pounds of safe and nutritious food to the needy in Maui County, including 300,000 pounds of fresh produce. Fully 40 percent of those served are children and youth, which is important, because children and youth are the most vulnerable to the negative effects of hunger.
Running a food bank operation is a labor-intensive endeavor. We collect food on a daily basis from all over the island; most of it is donated, and the rest is purchased at wholesale prices or less. Everything we bring in goes through an intake inspection. Then everything is sanitized, sorted, inventoried and stored until it can be distributed. Food shipments to Lanai and Molokai also are pulled and palletized right in our warehouse. Each step of the operational process is regulated by strict adherence to the "Warehouse Operations Manual," a definitive guide published by Feeding America, a national organization that outlines Good Warehouse Practices, Safety and Sanitation Requirements, and other vital criteria for nonprofit food dissemination organizations.
To operate on a day-to-day basis, Maui Food Bank relies upon the generosity and aloha spirit of close to 400 community volunteers. In 2013 alone, these dedicated individuals and families cheerfully donated more than 2,400 hours of their time to help the food bank accomplish its mission.
A Community volunteer observed: "To me, the Maui Food Bank is a glowing example of how a community can pull together to support a worthy cause. There's no other agency doing the work the Maui Food Bank does to meet the needs of people who are hungry right here in Maui County. That's why I volunteer my time here - because it really makes a difference."
For more information on the Maui Food Bank or to volunteer some time or to donate resources, contact Marlene Rice, director of development, at 243-9500, or visit www.mauifoodbank.org.
* Richard Yust is executive director of the Maui Food Bank.