Last spring, KCC held a monthly ʻOhana food giveaway event on campus. (Photo by Christian Morgan)

By Christian Morgan | Contributing Writer

A lack of regular access to food that is safe, nutritious, tastes good and meets the requirements of a healthy lifestyle describes food insecurity, a basic need like housing or transportation.

The University of Hawaiʻi partnered with The Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice to conduct a survey evaluating basic needs insecurity every three years. In 2020, 2% of students at Kapiʻolani Community college participated in the survey distributed via email. From this, 38% had experienced food insecurity in the last 30 days. More information can be found in the UH System Student Basic Needs Master Plan: A 3-Year Strategy plan.

LaVache Scanlan, a member of the system-wide University of Hawai’i Basic Needs (UHBN) Committee, observed this food insecurity on campus from her experience while directing the Lunalilo Scholars program since 2012. The Lunalilo Scholars program is a scholarship for first-year students who have barriers that prevent them or inhibit them from coming to college.

“What do you need to be to be a successful college student?” Scanlan said an interview with me in the Spring 2023 semester. “You kinda need that foundation first. If you are worried about where your next meal is coming from or … if you’re couch surfing because you don’t have a permanent place to live, what are those things impacting your ability to complete your college education?”

One day, back in 2016, students of the Lunalilo Scholars program voiced the desire to start a food pantry on campus. Over the course of four years, they found space (in ʻIliahi 231), funding, volunteers and an essential partnership with the Waikīkī Community Center. The Pohukaina Food Pantry opened in January 2020. The space was designed as a shopping mart rather than a pantry, to mitigate the stigma we may experience from needing donated food. The pantry shares a name with King Liholihoʻs tomb in ʻIolani Palace, Pohukaina, both spaces holding something sacred.

In March 2020, when the Covid-19 pandemic hit, and campus – along with Pohukaina Food Pantry food pantry – was closed, Scanlan and Colette “Aunty Coco” Fujii, along with essential volunteers, continued to feed approximately 100 families a week while adhering to social distancing health regulation through the drive-thru ʻOhana food distribution events. Once a month, 20-pound boxes of food were distributed in parking lot B by Diamond Head Theatre.

Last Friday, an ʻOhana Produce Plus Food Distribution event was held from 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. in parking lot B.

Pohukaina Food Pantry hosted its first giveaway on Oct. 26 and will continue every Thursday from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.