A common misconception is that all people in need of food assistance are homeless substance abusers who are unmotivated to work.
“The real face of hunger is a person like you or me,” said Joyce Kawakami, founder and full-time volunteer CEO and executive director of Feed My Sheep.
Feed My Sheep, a small, grassroots, mobile food distribution program, has been in existence since 1999, when Kawakami began providing nutritious groceries for several hungry teens in her church youth group.
After realizing hunger was a widespread problem in the community, she expanded her operations by purchasing a pickup truck and directly handing out groceries to those in need. Over the last decade, the pickup has been replaced by seven large delivery trucks that transport food, and through six distribution sites distribute nutrition to 9,500 hungry people—many of whom would not otherwise be able to survive.
“Feed My Sheep,” named for the request Jesus made to his disciples to tend and feed his followers, provides for 1,000 more people this year than last, serving the equivalent of 140,000 meals monthly, or 70,000 pounds of groceries at a cost of only $2.50 per person, per week. More than 3,000 of those served are children under the age of 18, and more than 1,300 are senior citizens over the age of 55.
For an increasing number of families on Maui, donated canned goods may be the only sustenance keeping their children from going hungry every night.
“I know what it’s like when you have kids at home and you don’t really have food to feed them,” said Maxine DelFante, a Feed My Sheep volunteer who used to receive food from the nonprofit organization. “The hardest part is that we can’t always give people all the food we want to give.” Feed My Sheep is able to serve 85 percent of the 11,000 who need their services.
“We really depend on the support of the community...,” Maxine said. “We don’t have clients—we have friends. We are friends helping friends.”
Feed My Sheep is currently conducting a food drive to supply turkey dinners on Thanksgiving, but the organization accepts food donations all year. More friends are always welcome.