While only 9 percent of Hawaii’s population fall below the federal poverty level, there is an additional 33 percent that represent our friends, families, and neighbors living just above the poverty line and still unable to make ends meet. These people are doing everything they can to get by, often working multiple jobs, and are just one crisis away from being unable to afford their bills, medications, food, and other basic necessities. This group is referred to as, “ALICE,” meaning Asset Limited, Income Constrained, and Employed. ALICE populations are found in every neighborhood and walk of life, but also include vulnerable populations such as kūpuna, people with disabilities, and others who have additional needs. The effects of COVID-19 have disrupted all of our lives,  but its effects on these vulnerable populations have been particularly damaging, exacerbating food insecurity, health complications, social isolation, and loneliness. Access to food, in particular, was drastically impacted as congregate meal sites and social services centers shut down or reduced their services.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, 42 percent of Hawaii’s households were considered ALICE or way below poverty levels according to the 2020 ALICE report released by Aloha United Way. Since COVID this percentage has increased by 17 percent (estimated by the Hawaiʻi Data Collective). These include our vulnerable populations, such as kūpuna, people with disabilities, and others who struggle to put food on the table. Before COVID-19, as many as 1 in 10 kūpuna across the state experienced food insecurity. The statewide shutdown exacerbated the economic hardships Hawaiʻi residents were already experiencing. Kūpuna and other vulnerable populations have been severely impacted by COVID-19 as congregate meal sites and social service centers have also shut down or drastically cut access to services. 

As part of an emergent response to support these populations in need, HIPHI has been contracted by the City and County of Honolulu to administer the Expanded Meal Service PLUS (EMSP) program, a $3 million COVID-19 relief effort funded by the Federal CARES Act. HIPHI ran a public RFP process and selected eight organizations with community trust and demonstrated capacity to target those at highest risk of food insecurity, including people 60 and older, those who are homebound or isolated, economically disadvantaged, residing in rural areas, or who have developmental disabilities, limited caregiving, or underlying health conditions. These organizations work to put much needed food (i.e. groceries, food boxes, and meals) into the hands of these priority populations, while also providing wraparound services including, but not limited to health and wellness checks, counseling,  making linkages to additional resources, and helping participants enroll in long-term supports or benefits. The goal of this effort is to provide meal, food and wraparound support to those significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic through November 30, 2020. 

Awarded grants went out to the following organizations:

  • Aloha Harvest
  • Hawaiʻi Meals on Wheels
  • Hawaiʻi VA Foundation
  • Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies
  • Keiki to Kupuna
  • Lanakila Pacific
  • Lunalilo Home
  • Pili Group

For more information, contact funding.hiphi@gmail.com.