Vivian Chau wants Hawaii residents to get off to a fresh start this year. And to make sure those less fortunate can have the equal access to healthy, locally grown food, the Assets School enrichment teacher has launched Give It Fresh Today (G.I.F.T.) at the weekly Kapiolani Community College Farmers’ Market, sponsored by the Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation.
“I chose to start this program at the farmers’ market because people who shop there are already making an effort to support local agriculture with their purchases,” explains Chau. “Our project gives the shoppers an opportunity to support the farms that they love while supporting organizations that help to feed the hungry.”
Since its launch Jan. 2, G.I.F.T. has already collected more than 400 pounds of food for the Institute for Human Services and Unity Church of Hawaii, of which Chau is a member. Unlike most food-drive programs that request canned goods or non-perishable items, G.I.F.T. asks for fresh fruits and vegetables, which Chau says contributes to the health and wellness of those on the receiving end.
“Ana Iose, the meal program manager at IHS, wants to be able to feed the people at the shelters in a way that she would feed her own family,” says Chau, who developed an appreciation for fresh produce from the farmers’ markets in her native New York City. “It just feels good to watch people take out a few ears of corn or bell peppers from a bag of several, or to give half a bag of kale and know that it will be eaten and appreciated by someone who wouldn’t have had the opportunity for such diversity in their diet.”
And true to her educator role, Chau hopes to expand the project to other farmers’ markets on the island.
“I’d love to create a model program that others could use as an example in other farmers’ markets across our state and perhaps beyond!” she says. “I’ve been learning more about food distribution efforts in Hawaii and would love to get more fresh produce into the hands of the poor and homeless. There are so many organizations to learn about and so many connections to be made.”
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