Food pantry for UH Hilo students in need to open Sept. 27

Services of the Hale Pa‘i ‘Ai food pantry are available to any UH Hilo student in need of food assistance.

By Susan Enright.

Fred Dela Cruz, Eric Rodrigues, Shay Hara, Kapena Desa, and Calvin Fukuhara in the food pantry.
Last semester at the “soft opening” of the food pantry, staff stocked the shelves. From left, 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. Courtesy photo.

Logo is grren, graphic design of food bundled in ti leaf with the words: Hale Pai Ai UH Hilo Food Pantry.A food pantry for students in need at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo will officially open on Friday, Sept. 27. Hours of the opening will be from 10:00 am to noon and 2:00 to 4:00 p.m.

Services of the Hale Pa‘i ‘Ai food pantry are available to any UH Hilo student in need of food assistance. No eligibility criteria or financial forms are required, just a valid UH Hilo student ID. Students are asked to use the food pantry services only as needed so as many students as possible can be served. The pantry is not intended to supply all food a student needs for the week, but will provide supplemental food to those who are in need of this type of support.

Addressing food insecurity

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.

Administrative Affairs staff will manage and operate UH Hilo’s Hale Pa‘i ‘Ai, as well as other food pantry support programs, as part of a one-year pilot project to address student food insecurities and support student success

Hale Pa‘i ‘Ai 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 ‘Ula O Ke‘elikōlani 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 ‘ai is coarsely mashed cooked taro (‘ai) formed into a loaf shape and wrapped with tī leaf into bundles (pa‘i) for transporting to places where taro may be scarce and so the people could eat the pa‘i ‘ai 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.

Hours and location

Regular hours at the food pantry will be every Friday from 10:00 am to noon and 2:00 .pm. to 4:00 p.m. during fall semester. The pantry is located in Portable Building 22, Room 101 (mauka of Pu’uli’i and makai of the Student Life Center), away from the heart of main campus to provide students with anonymity to the greatest extent possible.

UH Hilo students in need of food assistance are encouraged to stop by the food pantry during hours of operation with a valid student ID to obtain a Hale Pa‘i ‘Ai ID card, or to validate an existing Hale Pa‘i ‘Ai ID card. The process is simple: after the initial visit, only the Hale Pa‘i ‘Ai ID card (no photo or name) is needed to protect the anonymity of students receiving services.

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Story by Susan Enright, 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.

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