Summer Lunch For Hungry Keiki

Jade Moon
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Wednesday - July 28, 2005
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The tiny girl peers up at the Styrofoam plates stacked in front of her. The top of her head barely clears the table.

“Got it?” Dexter Kishida asks, piling a big plate, a napkin and a carton of juice onto her scrawny arms. “Can you get it?”

She can, and solemnly walks away. Even the littlest people get really hungry.

I am at the Boys & Girls Club at Papakolea to witness the beginning of a new program called Feeding Our Future. It’s a partnership between the Hawaii Foodbank, the Sodexho Foundation and Waialae Public Charter School. What they are doing is filling a huge gap in the lives of children. Thousands of Hawaii kids come from needy families and qualify for free and reduced-fare school lunches. It’s often the most complete meal they’ll have all day. But then comes summer.

“Usually the six weeks of summer, they go without,” says Kishida.

The Sodexho Foundation is the non-profit arm of Sodexho Campus Services, which provides food on the University of Hawaii campus. The Foundation awarded $20,000 to Waialae School to start the program. Waialae’s food service staff purchases the food and prepares the lunches to distribute in areas all across Oahu.

“Papakolea’s one,” says Kishida. “We have two groups in Kalihi, one group in Waipahu, and one in the Palolo area.”

The Hawaii Foodbank connected the program with four agencies serving kids: Kokua Kalihi Valley, Lighthouse Outreach Center, Mutual Housing Association and the Boys and Girls Club, Papakolea. Altogether these agencies serve about 300 children. And since the program started in June it’s distributed 7,500 meals.

Today on the menu: fish, rice and carrots. Donnie Hoover, who manages the Papakolea club, says her kids are all from the Hawaiian Homestead and often from big families.

“It’s really a stretch. Financially it’s a burden and sometimes difficult for them to provide.”

The kids pick up their plates and walk away, ignoring the tables and chairs indoors and heading straight outside for their little playground. They sit on the slide and under the monkey bars, and start munching.

“How is it?” I ask a girl named Elisha.

“Good,” she replies. “Better than last year.”

Actually, she’s very lucky to have the meal at all. Hoover tells me she might have had to ask the parents to provide the lunches this year because of her limited budget.

And yes, the families are grateful. Charlotte Kaluna says the kids work hard to change the image of Papakolea. It’s often described as a rough neighborhood, and they don’t like that at all.

“They come in every morning,” says Kaluna, “and as a parent I’m very happy there’s people who care about us, about our homestead, about the health of the Hawaiian people in general.”

You won’t get an argument from the kids. To them it’s simple. They get hungry, and someone nice comes by and gives them food. It is, indeed, a way of feeding the future — by filling the tummies of our children.

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