Pelika Andrade’s attitude towards being nominated to be a Hometown Hero personifies what it is to be one.
Andrade, a Hawai‘i Island extension agent for the University of Hawai‘i Sea Grant College Program with a nonprofit umbrella called Na Maka Onaona, collaborates with many programs, including Aina Ho‘okupu O Kilauea on Kaua‘i, to distribute food to thousands of Kaua‘i families affected by the COVID-19 pandemic — to the tune of about 2,000 boxes a week.
And when she realized she was being recognized for the hard work, she was the first to credit all the volunteers of AHK.
“The heroes here are a bigger group, and only successful because of the collective contribution to this initiative,” Andrade said. “AHK has the connection and the means to aggregate such large amounts of produce, and partners like Adopt a Kupuna’s Megan Wong, and Paulina Barsotti, had the relationship to help set up the distribution of these produce boxes.”
One of AHK goals is to facilitate relief for economic, social and agricultural/food security challenges that the greater Kilauea community faces.
In this Hometowns Hereos segment, The Garden Island discussed with Andrade the importance of food programs, the volunteers that run them and the vital role of local food production in the islands.
It sounds like your program was able to make an immediate impact during the pandemic. Tell us what helped make it a success.
Our community had to put a hold on the programmatic things that we do. Our program is limited, so we shifted our immediate need with our locally-sourced foods, and supported farmers unloading their produce. Our program had the flexibility to fill immediate needs when the pandemic came up. It happened through resiliency, productivity, our community-feeding program, or the Hanai Kaiaulu, which means “feeding our community.”
We had countless organizations that we’re able to send (food boxes) out as evenly as we could across the whole island. We were able to get a grant through the USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) program to get these boxes where the groups buy the produce from the farmers and aggregate it on sight to build the boxes, and other nonprofits and organizations distribute to over 2,000 households.
We were funded by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs very early on in the pandemic. (OHA) stepped in to help our local farmers, families and community members donate and carry out these programs. We had several foundations that stepped up (and) we have some unnamed funding.
Families benefit from this. Some of these families are going hungry in some cases and lean on these organizations to make sure they feed an individual household or family person. They don’t know what is going on in every corner of the community, and that fills the need to help get these boxes to the families, foundations and organizations.
How vital is locally-sourced food for Kaua‘i?
We love to secure a locally-sourced, district-based food system, (and) we have locally-sourced, fresh food of not only vegetables and fruit, but from a meat supply to local bakeries. This fills an immediate need for food and supporting local farmers. We are unloading their produce, so it doesn’t go to waste, and both are important for our farmers unable to get their products out to farmers’ markets, restaurants and resorts. Sustainable local produce is needed for communities.
Now that we talked about the organizations you serve, what drives you to do what you do?
I was raised in a family active in the service and contributions of the indigenous Native Hawaiian culture.
I was born and raised in Kaua‘i, but I moved away from my family to the Big Island and lived there for 20 to 25 years. I would come back and forth, and just recently permanently moved back here within the last five years.
I went to Kamehameha High School in O‘ahu. I was always focused on building that experience and going to work with communities.
I have a voyaging background, and a lot of my life journeys have put me onto this path. Falling into the food system was a no-brainer for me.
Jason Blasco, sports reporter, can be reached at 245-0437 or email@example.com.