The couple behind a critical Kakaako food pantry continue to scramble to find an affordable replacement space, but Charlie and Diana Lorenz are preparing for the possibility they’ll have to close Feeding Hawaii Together for good on Dec. 1.
“There’s going to be a great hole in the community,” Diana said Tuesday morning as needy clients lined up for free, fresh fruits and vegetables, protein and canned goods. “Our biggest concern is the people we serve.”
Feeding Hawaii Together has been feeding the needy for 18 years in Kakaako — and has been in its current, 19,000-square-foot location on Keawe Street for the last 15 years.
But the building has been sold. And since the Honolulu Star-Advertiser first reported on the Lorenzes’ predicament in September, they have checked out nearly 40 commercial locations from Mapunapuna to Moiliili in search of a replacement.
But they can’t afford the market rate leases that range from $10,000 to $20,000 per month for 6,000 to 10,000 square feet of commercial space they need.
So now the Lorenzes hope to cobble together enough donations to allow Feeding Hawaii Together to rent a new space somewhere in town for about $10,000 per month that would accommodate the refrigerators and freezers they’ll bring in to provide food beyond canned goods and prepackaged products.
“Fresh fruits and vegetables and lots of deli meats,” client Barbara Chilson, 63, said when asked what she likes best about the food provided by Feeding Hawaii Together.
Chilson receives food stamps and has several disabilities and comes to Feeding Hawaii Together nearly every week from Kaimuki.
If Feeding Hawaii Together closes Dec. 1, as planned, Chilson said, “it’ll be very painful.”
Feeding Hawaii Together distributes fresh food and produce from the Hawaii Foodbank that would otherwise go to waste.
Unlike other food banks, which offer only presorted boxes and bags of donated food, the clients at Feeding Hawaii Together use shopping carts to pick out what they like among plenty of fresh offerings, which the Lorenzes believe gives their clients more dignity.
In all, the nonprofit organization distributes more than 3 million pounds of food annually to more than 53,000 households.
While some of its clients are homeless and come from Kakaako, 90 percent of them are working poor, including seniors and children, Diana Lorenz said.
As she’s told landlords over the last several weeks, Diana said that Feeding Hawaii Together has never had a problem with homeless encampments springing up outside its doors.
Instead, she said the overwhelming majority of Feeding Hawaii Together’s clients are people such as Missy Robinson, 50, of Makiki.
Robinson’s husband works two jobs to feed their two boys and keep up with their monthly rent of $2,000.
“I have to hustle to feed my kids,” Robinson said. “Here we get vegetables, fruits, canned food, bread, turkey slices, hot dogs, all kine good stuff.”
While there are certainly other food banks in town, Robinson said they lack fresh fruits and vegetables for her boys and are “just not as good.”
Asked how she’ll feed her boys after Dec. 1, Robinson said, “What will I do? Believe in God.”
To help Feeding Hawaii Together stay open, call 781-2018 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.