There are currently three food options on campus for students and staff. The administration is in the process of finding a solution to this issue. (Photo by Cameron Enomoto)

By Cameron Enomoto | Staff Writer

Before the pandemic forced everyone to trade their classrooms for computer screens, KCC was home to a fully functioning cafeteria with a wide variety of options, Subway, and food trucks that would occasionally serve people on the Great Lawn.

It’s been three years since then, and the absence of eateries on campus has become a big source of frustration, leaving people wondering when other options will be available. Now, food options on campus are limited to the bookstore, which serves Starbucks drinks and packaged pastries and sandwiches, vending machines, and the $5 bento truck in parking lot B.

“I am here from 7:30 a.m. until 6 p.m.,” said Jason Kekuwela, a 21-year-old Culinary Arts student. “I don’t have time to make anything for myself in the morning because I’m in a rush to beat traffic. I have breaks during the day, but the same food gets boring. I think more choices would be better for everyone.”

The bookstore is only open Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and the vending machines located outside Kalia that are in operating condition are not always stocked. While the $5 bento truck provides more filling options, there are a limited number of choices.

“We’ve had numerous attempts at bringing food vendors to campus since the beginning of the pandemic,” said John Richards, the dean of Business, Legal, Technology, Culinary, and Hospitality. “At that time our campus population was not enough to support anything, and we learned how far off we were from making it profitable for an outside vendor. Now we’re coming out of the pandemic and our number one priority initiative as our executive leadership team as of January 1 is food.”

Prior to the pandemic, the cafeteria on campus served food daily and Subway in ʻIliahi was in operation. However, teams that worked in the cafeteria were laid off due to Covid-19, and the independent owners of Subway chose not to return once in-person activities resumed.

“It’s very complex to bring in a food vendor or to produce it ourselves,” Richards said. “We have to consider labor practices, cash handling, and credit card processing. All these things require a lot of training, and we have to go through these necessary steps since that’s how our operations are handled safely.”

According to Richards, the administration is in the process of finding both a short-term and long-term solution for this problem. The short-term fix would be to have something readily available for students as soon as possible. However, an anticipated date for this implementation is currently unavailable.

For a long-term fix, the administration is reaching out to some of the large managed food services like Sodexo, which have provided food to UH Mānoa, UH Maui College, and other locations. Richards said that an ideal long-term solution is expected by Fall 2023. 

A grab-n-go model has been discussed as a short-term solution with Brian Furuto, the vice chancellor of Administrative Affairs.

The plan is to work with a vendor or catering company, we had the idea that they would drop off grab-n-go salads, sandwiches, and other food,” said Richards. “We would like to figure out a way to work with student congress or one of those organizations to say, ‘If we move this grab-n-go operation into the Subway location, how could our student programs find a way to get student help to operate and sell the food during certain hours?'”

The administration is also considering reaching out to ABC Stores, 7-Eleven, and Foodland to discuss possible partnerships.

Until a solution, short-term or long-term, is implemented, campus-goers have the option to bring their own food or stop at one of the three places where food is available. Additionally, 220 Grille, a sustainable food bistro run by Culinary Arts students, is anticipated to begin serving food during lunch time at a later date this semester.

“From administration, I want to say how loudly we hear everybody,” Richards said. “We understand and we agree. This year, with our new administration, if you will, it’s our number one priority. That’s how we want to start the new year. We have a great appreciation for our students, our staff, and all other people who have had to endure this.”