'Kakau 4 Keiki' Keeps Bellies Full This Summer

By Lichen Forster

Food is loaded into a waiting car at the Kakau 4 Keiki eventVolunteers load cars during pickup. Photo Courtesy of Office of VCSA.

During the school year, Hawaiʻi’s keiki from homes with tight budgets can access an incredible resource: free or reduced-priced meals. When summer hits, however, funding distribution sites and keeping them staffed gets more difficult, and kids in rural areas have more difficulty reaching them. “Kaukau 4 Keiki”was a solution launched on June 14 as part of the USDA’s Summer Food Service Program’s goal to give children access to healthy food, even when they aren’t at school.

Food items in a paper bagA sample of the meal kits. Photos Courtesy of Tiffany Edwards Hunt. Families with children 18 and under (22 and under for disabled children) living on Hawaiʻi Island, Oʻahu, Maui, or Kauaʻi, were able to order meals every week and pick them up at regional locations. For six weeks this summer, UH Hilo student volun- teers handled the delivery and distribution of more than 40,000 pounds of food spread across 3,960 meal kits to the area’s keiki. Each child received one kit that included sev- en breakfasts and seven lunches each week, according to Farrah-Marie Gomes, Ph.D., vice-chancellor of Student Affairs.

A student helps to deliver food to waiting studentsAllison Dupre, a UH Hilo senior, majoring in Business Administration, helped out with food distribution for Kaukau 4 Keiki outside Campus Center in early August At various times, the meal kits included lettuce, cabbage, zucchini, cucumbers, toma- toes, onions, papayas, bananas, bell peppers, sweet potato, pineapples, strawberries, and oranges. Families also received bread, tuna, chicken, refried beans, Spam, peanut butter, milk, and coconut water.

“The program tried to source from as many local farmers as possible,” Gomes said. This goal meant that the food varied from week to week, and was as fresh as was available. Gomes, who helped coordinate Kaukau 4 Keiki, believes that another meal bag program will be made available during this academic year.