PUHI — Prior to the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, there were two food-pantry programs being operated at Kaua‘i Community College.
The arrival of the pandemic shut down the campus to students and staff only, and the location of the pantries were in a section of the campus that was closed.
Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Margaret Sanchez knew there was a need for these types of centralized services, the need being shown following a student-support survey conducted during the fall 2020 semester.
“Of the responding students, 40% were struggling with food insecurity, 30% did not pay their utilities in full, and 62.6% were unemployed — 37.4% due to the COVID-19 pandemic.” Sanchez said.
“We knew that something had to be done. Hale Malama, dedicated to the health, safety, overall well-being and quality of life for all students, had the capacity to begin addressing this need.”
Sanchez, working with the Learning Resouce Center libarians Bob Kajiwara and Jay Baker, identified and found a space where food and goods could be distributed to students in the LRC, one of the few places open to students during the current semester and in adherance to pandemic-health-and-safety guidelines.
Berna Souza and Brian Kohatsu of the Hale Malama program, also housed in the LRC, lead the effort, providing holistic, wraparound services in the areas of mental health and student basic needs through support, guidance and case management, to meet students where they are in their personal and academic journey.
It is the support and outreach arm of Hale Malama that houses the Food and Goods Pantry and is focused on increasing the perpetual self-sufficiency and academic success of every KCC student through its variety of support programs.
“Hale Malama is dedicated to the health, safety, overall well-being and quality of life for all students, and works in collaboration with the chancellor’s office, its campus counterparts and a handful of community organizations to provide this essential service,” said Kohatsu, the Hale Malama program director and mental-health counselor.
Other services provided by Hale Malama include meal vouchers, student emergency aid, child-care grants, and the HINET Employment and Training program.
Fueling the Food and Goods Pantry, community groups like the Hawai‘i Foodbank Kaua‘i Branch, Malama Kaua‘i, Kamehameha Schools-Kaua‘i Regional Office, Hale ‘Opio, KCC nursing program and Kalaheo Dental Group keep the shelves full.
“They are so amazing,” said Wai‘ale‘ale program student Austin Manipon-Hamada, who runs the upper-campus food-support program. “It’s because of their willingness to help our community and our students that we are able to continue to be there for them. They just make you feel welcome.”
Joining the available inventory of non-food items that includes diapers, sanitary wipes, toilet paper, paper towels, detergents, household cleaning items, feminine hygiene products and various other personal items, the Kamehameha Schools’ Kaua‘i Regional Office donated additional items like diapers, wipes and canned foods.
“We are so happy to be able to support the students here and their academic journey,” said Buffy Trugillo, the Kamehameha Schools Kaua‘i director. “To be able to focus on school, they need to be able to take care of themselves and their ‘ohana.”
Starting in March, the students have also received community supported agriculture bags from Malama Kaua‘i.
“Our students are very appreciative of the variety and quality of food they receive,” Souza said. “Since opening on Feb. 5, this new location has served 98 adults and 56 children. Of the people getting services, 62% of the users are currently unemployed.”
The Food and Goods Pantry is currently open once a week, but looking to expand service hours. Currently enrolled University of Hawai‘i and KCC students interested in registering for a food pantry pickup can visit the Hale Malama website at kauai.hawaii.edu/hale-malama and click on the Support &Outreach Services page.
Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or email@example.com.