Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islander (NHPI) households have been shown to have the highest percentages of food insecurity, compared to other major ethnic groups in Hawaiʻi. Since COVID-19 was introduced to the islands, the numbers of those experiencing food insecurity – a household’s ability to provide consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy lifestyle – is likely to have grown considerably.
Food insecurity can happen within any family. One “bad month” due to unexpected layoffs, illnesses and bills can set a family back financially. Contributing to that is the closure of schools and küpuna programs that would typically provide 1-2 hot meals most days of the week. Over time, food insecurity may affect a keiki’s ability to learn and grow properly. For adults and children alike, it can create health complications, including unmanaged diabetes, blood pressure and cholesterol, and unintended weight changes from relying on cheaper, less nutritious foods. It might also force a decision of having to choose between purchasing medications or food.
While our state continues to work towards managing this crisis, what can we do to stretch our food dollars to help ensure our ʻohana is fed with nutritious food?
- Plan your meals by the week: This can keep you focused on buying only those things that you need.
- Make a shopping list: This helps prevent frequent last-minute purchases from a nearby store that may have higher prices, as well as save you time and gas.
- Don’t shop when hungry: If you do, chances are you’ll end up buying more packaged, processed foods and less fresh foods.
- Shop around and keep track of stores with the best prices: Don’t forget to check Target and Walmart. Their prices are often quite competitive with typical grocery stores.
- Buy generic brands: You can get the same items for a lesser price.
- Buy frozen vegetables and fruits: Often cheaper than fresh and just as nutritious.
- Prepare meals at home: Save dining out for special occasions.
- Freeze leftovers: If you don’t finish a dish after a few days of preparing it, freeze it for use later on.
To supplement what you have, take advantage of the free meals and groceries that are being offered within each community. Here’s a link that provides a listing of some food pantries and distribution sites statewide: www.hawaii.edu/offices/student-affairs/emergency-food-assistance/. Visit this site if you are interested in the latest information on food distribution availability and locations.
There may be other organizations or communities providing food that are not listed here. Many local restaurants, Hawaiian Homestead communities and churches have begun providing periodic meals to those living in the area. If you know of any additional ones, please be sure to share the info with your family and friends. Also, if you are able to share a hot meal with other families, please consider doing so. “ʻIke aku, ʻike mai. Kōkua aku, kōkua mai. Pēlā ka nohona ʻohana.” Watch, observe. Help others and accept help. That is the family way.