Thematic Food System Vulnerability Assessments: Vulnerability & Resilience in the Hawaiʻi Food System

Conducted by Dr. Amanda Shaw, Dr. Albie Miles, Kerstyn Afuso, Tierra Bartolotti

Executive Summary: This report outlines findings from 16 key informant interviews as part of the 4th component of the THFST project, food system vulnerability assessments. These key informant interviews were  aimed at understanding the views of key policymakers, state agency directors, and NGO and  community leaders in the Hawai’i food system.

Key Findings:

  1. Threats and risks to household and community food security; 
  2. Points of vulnerability in relation to household and community food security; 
  3. Gaps and innovations in the emergency food system; 
  4. Patterns of food (in)security; 
  5. Visions for the future and; 
  6. Opportunities for collaboration.

Honolulu Port Flood Vulnerability Assessment

Conducted by Dr. John J. Marra, Dr. Albie Miles, Michael Wahl, Chad Buck

Executive Summary: The specific aim of this analysis was to examine the impact of sea level rise (1.0, 1.5 meter by 2100; Sweet et al, 2017) at the Port of Honolulu to evaluate the potential risks to critical infrastructure from flooding through 2050 and 2070. This preliminary analysis is intended to identify key points of vulnerability due to SLR that may impact key food import infrastructure. Such identified points of vulnerability in the food system are intended to serve as key empirical reference points for developing new strategies for achieving food system resilience and ensure household and community food security in Hawaiʻi in the context of anticipated sea level rise and the case of future natural disasters such as severe weather events.

Key Findings:

Relative Risks by year 2050 (1m SLR by 2100)
Relative Risks by Year 2070 (1m and 1.5m SLR by 2100)

Relative Risks by Year 2070

Emergency Feeding Systems Gap Analysis

Conducted by Hunter Heaivilin

Executive Summary: The economic shutdown resulting from COVID-19 public health measures in Hawaii initiated a crisis of household food insecurity driven by high rates of unemployment and compounded by delayed and insufficient social safety nets. As household food insecurity increased drastically across the state, emergency feeding systems mobilized the largest response in the history of the Hawaiian Islands. While these efforts averted greater crisis, the hardships experienced by many community members exposed significant gaps in the emergency feeding system. These key gaps include the need for tracking household preparedness, impact assessment precision, multi-scalar emergency food planning and coordination, and resourcing. Gaps were identified through an Emergency Feeding Lessons Learned convening of key actors with direct responsibility for emergency feeding during the COVID-19 crisis, and through author experience over the past 15 months (April 2020 – July 2021) as a food system resilience consultant working with community, county, and state food access agencies and organizations.

Key Findings: Emergency Feeding Lessons Learned Session

A convening brought together Hawaii food producers and distributors, food banks and partner agencies, county and state government, nonprofits, coalitions, and networks to surface lessons from emergency feeding responses to COVID-19. Discussion between these key actors, who have had direct responsibility for emergency feeding during the COVID-19 crisis, foregrounded the following issues. Read the full Summary of Findings.

Key Findings: Emergency Food & System Resilience

In March 2020, the author began efforts to parse and support Hawaii’s emergency feeding system. Soon thereafter, once hired as a food resilience consultant (FRC) by the Hawaii Public Health Institute, coordination, analysis, and planning began with community, county, and state food access agencies and organizations. FRC coordination work centered on participation in networks across the state, weaving together local agriculture, emergency relief, and government policy efforts. Among other efforts, FRC provided data support to the Kupuna Food Security Coalition, worked closely with Food Access Coordinators (FAC) in each county, sits on Hawaii Hunger Action Network’s leadership team, and is a member of the State Emergency Support Function # 6 on Mass Care. These roles provide a landscape view of community to county to statewide emergency feeding planning system and response systems. At each scale there are significant gaps in planning that are furthered by limited connectivity between scales. Read the Notes on Vulnerability.


The following recommendations are key means to address critical gaps in emergency food planning and link functional capacity across the complex system of emergency feeding in the state (see the Planning Scaffold for more details):

  • Perform county level Community Assessment for Public Health Emergency Response (CASPERs) to assess the volume of households with the HI-EMA recommended 14-days of food and water storage.
  • See Kauai’s work.
  • Assess the capacities and limitations of emergency feeding organizations’ disaster planning and training.
  • Fund and establish a disaster planning and training cohort for key feeding organizations.
  • See Marin Community Foundation’s approach.
  • Support county emergency management agencies to produce Multi-Agency Feeding Support Plan (MAFSPs) and establish Multi-Agency Feeding Task Forces, informed by CASPER readiness assessments and feeding organization’s planned disaster response capacities and roles. See the National Mass Care Strategy MAFSP template.
  • Develop a state level Multi-Agency Feeding Support Plan and Feeding Task Force, informed by county MAFSPs, as a sub-annex to Emergency Support Function 6’s Food Annex and ESF-6 operations approach.
  • Develop data systems across the emergency food system to: model household food insecurity to aid county and civil society rapid impact assessments; aggregate social safety net and food distribution data to assess distribution impacts by region and improve response coordination; and collect self-reported food insecurity data to validate other datasets.
  • See the Food Security Insight Data Model Approach