Aloha Harvest is the largest food rescue organization in the state of Hawai`i. Founded in 1999, we are 1 of about 50 recognized food rescue nonprofits in the US.
Hunger does not exist due to a lack of food. It exists due to systems that are wasteful and inequitable in the distribution of food. Globally, about a third of the food we produce gets wasted. If we were to rescue and redistribute all that food, we’d have enough to feed the world’s hungry twice over. That’s the idea behind food rescue.
Aloha Harvest annually rescues and redistributes over 1 million pounds of quality excess food that would have otherwise been wasted. This food comes from a network of 250+ grocery stores, wholesale distributors, restaurants and more, and goes to 175+ social service agencies and nonprofits feeding the hungry. Donors and recipient agencies are protected under the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act of 1996, and the Hawaiʻi Good Samaritan Donation of Food Act.
As a food rescue organization, we play a critical role alongside food banks and food pantries in the fight against hunger. Unlike food bank organizations, Aloha Harvest does not store any food. We pick up perishable and nonperishable food from donors and deliver same day (free of charge) 7 days a week to social service agencies that, in turn, prepare and/or distribute the food to those in need. Our perishable food donations, such as excess prepared foods from banquets and restaurants, are delivered on the same day to agencies that serve hot meals to the hungry.
The agencies we deliver excess food to serve populations that include: at-risk youth, those who are homeless or who need housing assistance, those who are unemployed, those recovering from substance and/ or physical abuse, those who have mental and/or physical disabilities, veterans, those living with HIV/AIDS, and senior citizens. As of 2019, 46% of those we serve are Native Hawaiians and Pacific islanders, and 29% are children.
The pandemic has shifted the way we think about and do so many things. Why can’t one of those things be the way we address hunger in our communities? In Hawai`i, 1 in 5 people, and 35% of Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, rely on food pantries for assistance. In spite of Aloha Harvest’s food rescuing efforts, 26% of our state’s food supply is wasted annually.
Since the onset of the pandemic in mid-March, Aloha Harvest has increased its amount of food distributed by 116% compared to the same period last year. As of August 2020, this food had provided an estimated 1.58 million meals to about 10% of Oʻahu’s population. We’ve also partnered with 85 new food donors and 56 new recipient agencies. We’ve expanded beyond solely rescuing and redistributing food and have collaborated with others in the areas of food preparation, food distribution, and direct food purchase to support local farms and businesses.
Hawaiʻi annually spends about $6.8 billion importing approximately 85% of its food, making us vulnerable to events that disrupt shipping. The cost of our food waste comes out to about $1.025 billion annually. Food rescue saves the state money and strengthens our
economy in both of these areas.
Aloha Harvest is looking towards the future and has outlined four essential goals. 1) Improve data collection processes to better understand our impact on the health of community members and the environment, and in turn set better goals. 2) Assess and improve the quality of food we rescue, including a push for more donors of fresh, local produce to contribute to better health for the individuals we serve. 3) Build out more opportunities for community engagement with food rescue. This includes the launch of ʻaiRescue, planned for 2021. ʻaiRescue will be a new crowdsourcing app that empowers community members to participate in everyday food rescue. 4) Increase efforts in education, advocacy, and community engagement with a focus on reducing waste at the consumer level, which is currently 43% nationwide, and on policy advocacy that will extend the capacity and reach of all food rescue programs.