Since May, Hawaii Foodbank has organized and facilitated dozens of largescale, drive-through food distributions to help nourish our ʻohana. At these events, literal tons of food are distributed to thousands of Hawaii households in need. It's a humbling sight. At first, the mass distributions may appear to be just a vast sea of cars. But take a closer look, and you will see faces — each one with a story to share. Faces like Ferdinand Soriano's.
For years, Ferdinand made the drive from Waipahu to Kapolei, working as a housekeeper in the hospitality industry. But after tourism shut down in response to COVID-19, Ferdinand was furloughed. The other members of his household — all of whom worked at Marriott's Ko Olina Beach Club — were also out of work.
Suddenly without income, Ferdinand found himself not knowing how to provide for his household of four, which was soon to become five. His first grandson expected to soon join the family.
"We were panicking. We started putting our savings towards rent, knowing there would be little left over," said Ferdinand. "We were even more scared because my daughter is pregnant, and getting nutritious food is critical to the baby's health."
But his fears soon turned to hope. He heard about one of Hawaii Foodbank’s upcoming drive-through food distributions on Facebook, and Ferdinand soon found himself making his next morning drive in a new direction — towards Aloha Stadium, where the next distribution was scheduled to take place. Knowing this could be a shot at relief, he and his wife Leilanie braved the wait.
"It was hard to wait in line, but the feeling of hope carried us through," recalls Ferdinand. "When we finally made it, we were overwhelmed with joy by the army of volunteers."
His fears continued to ease as he watched the volunteers load food into his trunk.
"We were in awe. The variety of fresh produce, meat, eggs, bread and dairy — this was the kind of nutritious food my daughter needed," describes Ferdinand. "I felt my prayers were answered. We were in tears."
While his tears were hidden behind his sunglasses, Ferdinand's gratitude illuminated in a way that everyone could see. In times of uncertainty, he teaches us to choose gratitude over shame.
"My family is grateful and not ashamed," reminds Ferdinand. "It has been a blessing to have those feelings during a time when we were mostly feeling panic, doubt and hopelessness. We are overjoyed, and that excitement has carried us many days."