Kaiser Permanente in Hawaii has awarded a $65,000 grant to Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center to support its Kupuna Pantry, an emergency food distribution program that increases seniors’ access to fresh, local meals and produce. With this grant, WCCHC estimates that it will be able to distribute 14,625 meals to seniors, or kupuna, along the Waianae coast from January to June 2022. In addition to food distribution, the organization plans to expand its social services, including assistance with housing and job training.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, food insecurity among Hawaii’s seniors varied from 5% to nearly 10%, meaning that more than 16,700 seniors are at risk of hunger in Hawaii. Hunger takes a severe toll on seniors’ health and nutrition, putting them at risk for chronic health conditions like depression, asthma, and diabetes. Local senior service organizations have seen an increase in demand for meal delivery services since the start of the pandemic, especially among seniors who live in rural areas and seniors with disabilities.
“Food security is fundamental to the health and well-being of our community, especially our kupuna,” said John Yang, MD, president and medical director for the Hawaii Permanente Medical Group. “With the opening of our West Oahu Medical Office at Kapolei earlier this year, we remain committed to increasing access to care for all residents of West Oahu. This means building strategic relationships with community partners such as Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center to reach underserved people outside of our facilities.”
Food banks and distributors like WCCHC play a major role in the food aid sector and in addressing social determinants of health by distributing donated and purchased groceries and meals directly to families who are unable to secure nutritious food for themselves and their loved ones. In 2021, Kaiser Permanente in Hawaii has provided $400,000 in grants to organizations working to meet the needs of Hawaii residents facing food insecurity.