There are a handful of food options on campus for students, though a partnership with the KCC bookstore to provide more variety and affordable options is in progress. (Photo by Cameron Enomoto)

By Cameron Enomoto | Staff Writer

It’s been three years since the Covid-19 pandemic, and KCC is still in the process of finding a long-term solution to combat the limited food options on campus. While there were only three places where students could purchase food on campus in the spring semester, new arrangements are in progress that will provide a variety of options at an affordable price.

“Pre-pandemic was already hard, and then the pandemic came and all the facilities shut down,” said Lance Yamamoto, the acting Vice Chancellor of Administrative Services. “Part of the chancellor’s big initiative is to get students back on campus, but if there’s no food it’s a difficult proposition.”

Prior to the pandemic, ʻŌhiʻa Cafeteria was fully operational and served various dishes daily. The facilities are not expected to reopen for food service anytime soon because the Culinary program will be moving into the cafeteria and doing its training there. According to Yamamoto, the relocation of the Culinary instruction is temporary while the current Culinary department, located in the ʻŌhelo building, is renovated. However, the importance of having food accessible has not gone unheard.

“We do need to get food in this semester so we’re super motivated to get something working,” said Yamamoto. “It’s just that it will take a bit of trial and error to see if we can find a good solution.”

Most vendors will not come to KCC on consignment, meaning that vendors will not drop off a set amount of food to be sold and pick up the product that doesn’t sell. In addition to that, vendors have requested higher volumes in terms of demand to produce food that’s affordable. One of the temporary fixes in place now includes food trucks. This was an initiative that began in Spring 2023 with two food trucks. Yamamoto said the other Oʻahu community college campuses have discussed a rotation of a series of food trucks throughout the week to provide greater variety to students. There is currently no date for the rollout of this plan.

These are not just issues for KCC unfortunately, but at least for the campuses on O‘ahu,” said Yamamoto. “The problem seems to be persisting throughout the system. Additionally, affordability is a priority for us. When we wrote the contracts for the food trucks, we did require that they produce some affordable options, which they do.” 

Another option that’s being worked on is a partnership with the KCC bookstore.

“They’re here to serve the students, and I feel that really strongly,” said Yamamoto. “We’re looking for a vendor who can provide us with different options to sell in the bookstore and if not, we’re going to have to go one by one. What I mean by that is finding a vendor for each type of food that we’d like to serve.”

The first group of food is hot bentos, though equipment such as food warmers are required, which is an issue that is being addressed. While the focus is bringing in vendors with affordable options, Yamamoto has shared that it’s somewhat of a challenge since affordable varies for everyone. On the cold food side, finding a vendor and proper storage equipment is also a work in progress. Cold food options would consist of salads, sandwiches, and fruit. 

“I think we’re really close to getting the hot bentos in the bookstore,” said Yamamoto. “The cold food might be really fast as long as we can find the right vendors and arrangements with cold storage. We’re working on multiple different options. I wish I could give better timeframes, though we’ll get them in as soon as we can get things figured out. “

Food options that are available on campus now include $5 bentos, 220 Grille, the KCC bookstore, and food trucks. The $5 bentos are now being sold in ʻŌhiʻa Cafeteria daily from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. 220 Grille, a sustainable food bistro run by Culinary Arts students, will be open every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. until Oct. 15. The KCC bookstore is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Monday through Thursday. Lastly, the EVISU-YA food truck will be on campus near the Lama Library on Wednesdays.