By Jared Page | Staff Writer

With the cost of living and college tuition on the rise, the stress levels of students are following suit. According to The Institute of Taxation and Economic Policy, in 2018, Hawai’i had the lowest wages in the United States when compared to its cost of living. 

The Pohukaina Food Pantry hosted by the Lunalilo Scholars Program at Kapiʻolani Community College is hoping to help address some of that. Each week, the scholars set up a diverse arrangement of pasta, cereal, snacks, canned goods, and more for hungry students and staff, who can come to ‘Iliahi 231 and take the items they need. 

“We knew how important this was to students and the research was there to back it up,” said LaVaché Scanlan, the project director of Lunalilo. 

LaVaché Scanlan (left) and “Aunty Coco” Andrade-Fujii set up the food pantry each week for students and faculty. (Photo by Jared Page)

The Lunalilo Scholars are taking action to fight hunger on campus, and students are encouraged to take advantage of this resource. Through a combination of private donors, non-profit partners, and the Hawai‘i Foodbank, Lunalilo has acquired over 1,000 pounds of non-perishable foods that will help combat food insecurity at KCC.

The free food pantry is up and running on the second floor of the ‘Iliahi building at KCC’s campus every Thursday from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. and Friday from 11 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. 

To eliminate the stigma surrounding these types of services, the food pantry has been set up to imitate a shopping experience. Students simply sign in and choose items with no further expectations or questions asked.

“It’s hard to study and be a successful student if you’re hungry,” Scanlan said. “In this center (‘Iliahi), we always have free coffee and snacks available. No one asks anything of you; you’re free to help yourself.”

Many are already putting the food pantry to good use. The pantry, which opened on Jan. 16, has already served more than 400 people, Scanlan said. 

It’s been almost four years in the making putting this together, and it was worth every minute,” she said.