UH Hilo opens food pantry for students in need

The business plan for the Hale Pa‘i ‘Ai food pantry program was developed by business major Jordan Kamimura who drew up the proposal as part of a fall 2018 internship project.

By Susan Enright.

Fred Dela Cruz, Eric Rodrigues, Shay Hara, Kapena Desa, and Calvin Fukuhara in the food pantry.
Stocking shelves for the new food pantry are, front row left to right, Fred Dela Cruz, Building and Maintenance Worker; Eric Rodrigues, Plumber; Shay Hara, Auxiliary and Facilities Services Officer; Kapena Desa, Building and Maintenance Worker. In back is Calvin Fukuhara, Building and Maintenance Supervisor. In below photos, Desa and Rodrigues install signs and the beverage cooler. Courtesy photos, click to enlarge.
Graphic of laulau and the words: Hale Pa‘i ‘Ai UH Hilo Food Pantry.
Hale Pa‘i ‘Ai logo designed by Tanya Ibarra, UH Hilo Graphics Services.

A food pantry for students in need is now open at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo. Hale Pa‘i ‘Ai is a one-year pilot project that will provide services to students in need of reliable access to food. Administrative Affairs will operate and manage the various Hale Pa‘i ‘Ai programs to help with student food insecurities.

“A food pantry concept alone will not resolve student food insecurities, however, it is a first step towards addressing immediate student hunger needs,” says Brenda Hamane, director of special projects at UH Hilo. “Hale Pa‘i ‘Ai is not intended to supply all food a student needs for the week, but will provide supplemental food to students who are in need of this type of support.”

Hamane says students may experience limited access to food at different times of the year due to lack of money and other resources. In April 2017, UH President David Lassner formed a Food Insecurity Committee with representation from all ten UH campuses to research food issues, explore current programs, and develop recommendations to better meet food needs for UH students statewide.

“Food insecurity among college students is a growing concern for campuses across the nation,” says Lassner. “Simply stated, hungry students have a harder time learning and graduating. And the stresses of paying for college all too often mean students don’t have enough money for the food they need. We face this serious issue across our University of Hawai‘i system as well.”

In 2018, the Food Insecurity Committee developed and conducted a survey for all UH students 18 years and older to participate in to help the administration understand student experiences and perceptions around food security and diet choices. Results of the survey are helping UH develop programs and policies to help students across the state.

Food pantry concept developed by business student

The UH Hilo food pantry concept was developed by Jordan Kamimura, a UH Hilo business major in his senior year. He developed the food pantry proposal as part of a fall 2018 internship project.

Marcia Sakai, Jordan Kumimura, Kalei Rapoza stand for photo in front of the concession.
Left to right, Interim Chancellor Marcia Sakai, business student Jordan Kamimura, and Vice Chancellor for Administrative Affairs Kalei Rapoza at the rollout event of the Teapresso Bar concession March 13, UH Hilo. The concession will support the new food pantry program on campus; Kamimura created the business plan for the pop-up and food pantry.

“The internship project objective included developing creative revenue generating programs and food supply sources to fund and sustain a food pantry program at UH Hilo without having to totally rely on food donations to address student food insecurities,” explains Hamane. “UH Hilo’s Food Service Enterprise was the primary resource and inspiration for many of the food pantry programs Kamimura researched and developed under this internship project.”

As part of the project, Kamimura researched student food insecurities and other university pantries and then prepared a proposal that does not rely totally on food donations to sustain operations but rather incorporates existing resources. The proposal was reviewed and approved by UH Hilo Interim Chancellor Marcia Sakai and Interim Vice Chancellor for Administrative Affairs Kalei Rapoza.

Kamimura’s plan was initiated in March with the first “Pop Up for Hunger” event, where a Teapresso Bar concession opened on the Library Lanai. The pop-up, open on Wednesdays and Fridays, will not only provide more drink options for students on campus, but will also help fund the new food pantry program.

“This is a rewarding student internship experience, and an outstanding Administrative Affairs team collaboration to provide services to students with food insecurities,” says Sakai. “The reward for Jordan Kamimura is to see his research and the development of a food pantry proposal actually implemented by Administrative Affairs, and benefiting UH Hilo students who are experiencing food insecurities.”


Administrative Affairs staff will manage and operate Hale Pa‘i ‘Ai, as well as other food pantry programs to support the pantry during the pilot project period.

The food pantry will officially open at the start of fall 2019 semester. Prior to the official fall opening, Administrative Affairs is holding a soft opening during the remainder of the semester to gather valuable feedback from students with food insecurities (see schedule below). The feedback includes a confidential survey currently underway, the results of which will be used to evaluate and improve on the food pantry operation moving forward. This will help administrators hone the program to accommodate student situations such as lack of food storage and kitchen facilities.

“During the summer, feedback from the confidential survey will be used to evaluate and tweak Hale Pa‘i ‘Ai operations to provide appropriate services to students with food insecurities when Hale Pa‘i ‘Ai officially opens at the start of fall 2019 semester,” says Rapoza.

Hale Pa‘i ‘Ai will have a microwave oven, hot water dispenser, and toaster oven. Sodexo will have a microwave oven available in the Campus Center Dining Room lounge area, and near the Deja Brew kiosk at the Library Lanai for students to heat up meals picked up at Hale Pa‘i ‘Ai.

Interim Chancellor Sakai is donating fresh produce; Vice Chancellor Rapoza is donating frozen complete meals; and Administrative Affairs staff are donating food items to kick off the Hale Pa‘i ‘Ai soft opening. The Hale Pa‘i ‘Ai program welcomes and appreciates food donations from the campus community, and will begin accepting food donations in August, 2019 to support the official opening of Hale Pa‘i ‘Ai.


Hale Pa‘i ‘Ai is located at Portable Building 22 (near Hale Kuamo‘o), in room 101.

Shay Hara, Kapena Desa, Eric Rodrigues, and Calvin Fukuhara at doorway.
Staff stand at the entrance to the new food pantry, left to right Shay Hara, Kapena Desa, Eric Rodrigues, and Calvin Fukuhara. Courtesy photo.

Open 2:00-4:00 p.m., the Hale Pa‘i ‘Ai soft opening dates this semester are:

  • Tuesday, April 16
  • Thursday, April 18
  • Monday, April 22
  • Wednesday, April 24
  • Friday, April 26
  • Tuesday, April 30
  • Thursday, May 2

The last day of the soft opening, Thursday, May 2 will provide an opportunity for students to pick up food for finals week.

Name and logo design 

Larry Kimura
Larry Kimura

The name Hale Pa‘i ‘Ai was created in collaboration with Larry Kimura, Hawaiian language professor and cultural practitioner from UH Hilo Ka Haka ʻUla O Keʻelikōlani College of Hawaiian language

“‘Hale,’ or place, would have food supplies that the student could take home to prepare and add to a meal,” says Kimura. “‘Pa‘i’ or bundle is similar to our packaging or canning nowadays—you take it home to extend its preparation into some recipe or just eat it out of the can if you like. Pa‘i ʻai is coarsely mashed cooked taro (ʻai) formed into a loaf shape and wrapped with tī leaf into bundles (paʻi) for transporting to places where taro may be scarce and so the people could eat the paʻi ʻai as is, or pound it further into poi. So you see, similar to the items you hand out from your pantry, the food items are packaged for transport and storage to be doled out.”

UH Hilo graphic designer Tanya Ibarra from UH Hilo Graphics Services took the meaning of Hale Pa‘i ‘Ai and designed the logo to be used for the student ID cards, signage, and informational brochures.



About the writer of this story: Susan Enright is a public information specialist for the Office of the Chancellor and editor of UH Hilo Stories. She received her bachelor of arts in English and certificate in women’s studies from UH Hilo.