Hirono donates paycheck to help The Food Basket

  • LAURA RUMINSKI/West Hawaii Today The Food Basket staff, from left, Sarah Hamakawa, Joann Abiley, executive director Kristin Frost Albrecht and Marshall Akaumu accept a donation from U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono on Wednesday.

KAILUA-KONA — U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono made good on her word to donate her salary from during the partial federal shutdown with a donation to The Food Basket, Hawaii Island’s Food Bank.

The Hawaii Democrat on Wednesday presented a check to The Food Basket Executive Director Kristin Frost Albrecht that’ll cover the purchase of enough rice to feed 450 families.

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“This pays for our three pallets of rice that we bought for the shutdown,” Albrecht said, explaining to Hirono that the nonprofit assisted hundreds of federal employees affected by the 35-day shutdown. “That’s powerful. That’s what this does.”

For many of those federal workers, it was the first time using the food bank’s services.

“They’ve always been on the other side of the donating,” Albrecht said. “It’s just that circle and how it can happen to any one at any time.”

The nonprofit provides food to 14,000 people per month, with about 75 percent of those people residing on the east side of the island. That’s up 30 percent from last year, Albrecht said.

Hirono was quick to say that she was sure when those families got back on their feet, they would complete the circle and quickly donate to the nonprofit that helped them through a rough time.

But that’s already happening, Albrecht told the senator, as many of those people who received help came out to give back during the 19th annual Feed-A-Thon, a 10-day food drive hosted at KTA Super Stores during February.

“They came — and they were donating for us,” Albrecht said.

“That brings tears to my eye,” Hirono said.

Hirono announced Dec. 27, 2018, that she would donate the pay she received during the partial shutdown to food banks in Hawaii’s four counties. She said she chose the food banks because they deal with life necessities.

“I wanted (it) to go to something really basic — food,” Hirono said. “We decided early on, before we knew how long it was going to last, to donate to the food banks.”

Her salary is being divided between The Food Basket, the Maui Food Bank and the Hawaii Food bank on Oahu and Kauai.

The dollar amount provided to The Food Basket on Wednesday was not divulged other than it was enough to make up for the rice purchases during the shutdown. Each pallet had 100-150 15-pound bags of the Hawaii staple.

“This is just a small token,” Hirono said to Albrecht and a handful of the nonprofit’s staff before receiving a quick tour of the Kona warehouse at Ulu Wini.

This wasn’t Hirono’s first time donating her “shutdown salary.”

“We’ve had three shutdowns (now) and I’ve always donated what I called my shutdown salaries,” Hirono said.

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The senator also donated her salary during government shutdowns in January 2013 and 2018.

Email Chelsea Jensen at cjensen@westhawaiitoday.com.

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