The pandemic made her do it

  • Courtesy of Joell Edwards

    Malama Kaua’i’s Joell Edwards, left, distributes food to community members in need.

  • Courtesy of Joell Edwards

    Joell Edwards is seen with state Rep. Daynette “Dee” Morikawa.

LIHU‘E — When the 2018 flood occurred on the North Shore, Joell Edwards, then a bartender at Tiki Iniki in Princeville Shopping Center, began her volunteer work with Malama Kaua‘i to distribute food to flood victims.

“I worked with Megan Wong, Megan Fox and Wes (Perreira) at the food bank (Hawai‘i Foodbank Kaua‘i Branch),” Edwards said. “We made gathering spaces and, because of that, Megan Fox asked me to consider working with Malama Kaua‘i, and it just felt right.”

Her passion for service to her community as a volunteer for several years has grown through the years.

Edwards has since turned her passion into her work with Malama Kaua‘i to help enhance food security on Kaua‘i.

Malama Kaua‘i is a nonprofit that has elevated its presence during the COVID-19 pandemic, and recently received $300,000 in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding to enhance food security as well as fund their programs that allow displaced workers opportunities to enhance and learn new skills.

Edwards, now the food-access coordinator and Farm To School Hui director, chose to emphasize distributing locally-sourced foods to school programs that suffered from food insecurity.

“Our main goal is to get locally-farmed foods into the school and into the cafeteria program,” Edwards said.

“We were doing great with generating a locally-sourced menu in March. Then COVID-19 happened.”

The program currently organizes kupuna and community-supported agriculture box deliveries and continues to make adaptions in the post-COVID-19 world we live in.

“It was important to us as an organization early during COVID, when everyone was fearful, to get nutritious products and farm-fresh food,” said Edwards, a native of Northern California. “We received some funding to do home-delivery for at-risk and vulnerable families with income restrictions.

Malama Kaua‘i developed a couple of food-referral partners, including the state Department of Education and Child &Family Service, and delivered lots of products to hundreds of families in need.

Edwards, who was an AIDS activist in Northern California and the River City Foodbank before coming to live on Kaua‘i full-time, continues to make adaptions in the new world to try to develop sustainability.

“We just pivot, and that is exactly how we handled the flood, and it was just natural for those of us,” Edwards said.

“We know how to feed people, and we continue to support our farmers by applying for grants and getting organizations from the mainland, with grant money, to buy goods from our local farmers, because they are still a part of our economy.”


Jason Blasco, reporter, can be reached at 245-0437 or

  1. Gordo September 29, 2020 9:38 am Reply

    Great story!! Keep it up!

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