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Hungry and Back to School

July 6, 2020

From the Office for Social Ministry

As families prepare for back-to-school sessions in the fall, it is not too early to identify healthy food sources for our keiki. July is typically the month when parishes organize school supply drives to prepare for the start of the new school year, so we encourage your continued support of hunger relief programs in our communities. Studies show young children who lack sufficient food are more likely to experience developmental impairments in language, motor skills and more.  As a result, hungry students face increased challenges in the classroom, putting them at a disadvantage with their peers.

Several Catholic food ministries address childhood hunger by providing backpacks with easy to prepare “kid-friendly” food, snacks and drinks.  These food bags are given primarily to public school keiki who are homeless and recipients of free and reduced school meals.  When school is not in session, the Maui Food Bank coordinates the Aloha Backpack Buddies program at 21 schools throughout Maui County to provide kids in need with a backpack full of weekend meals; and Hawaii Food Basket distributes keiki backpacks to kids at Big island campuses with at least 90% participation in free and reduced school meals during weekends and long school breaks.

On Oahu and Kauai, the Hawaii Food Bank is leading the fight against childhood hunger through summer lunch feedings and helping stand-up food pantries at various public schools through the Food 4 Keiki program. Thanks to community partners and non-profit organizations, pantries on school campuses send hungry keiki home with 5-pound bags of food, most particularly before holidays and long weekends when they’re not privy to subsidized school meals.  Here is a list of school pantries scheduled to re-open in the Fall.  The Hawaii Food Bank is currently reviewing the program before determining gap areas around the island where additional food sources are needed.  That being said, it’s important that our parish pantries keep parishioners and pantry patrons informed on the status of these additional food sources.

Hunger is also a major challenge for some college students. A 2018 survey of college and university students enrolled in 66 institutions across the U.S reports that 42 percent of community college students were food insecure at least 30 days preceding the survey.  Since that study, the University of Hawaii has established food pantries on most campuses; UH Manoa (Food Vault Hawaii), UH Hilo (Hale Pa’i ‘Ai), Leeward Community College (Hānai iā Leeward) plus pantries at Maui and Windward Community Colleges. 

Feeding our students means nourishing young minds and growing better communities! Remember that it won’t be enough to just send keiki back to school with a fresh box of crayons and composition books without taking into account their nutritional needs. Is there a pantry on your neighborhood campus?  Does your parish collect kid friendly food that’s distributed through a backpack ministry?  As our new 2020 graduates prepare for college or career and newfound independence, do they have enough to eat?  We are all One ‘Ohana. Let’s keep in mind the mantra repeatedly stated since the start of the COVID-19 Pandemic, “We’re all in this together!” For those who are not battling hunger, may we all hunger to serve and feed our hungry brothers and sisters. For an updated list of COVID-19 resources throughout our communities, please visit our OSM website.