HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Princess Kaiulani elementary school serves about 425 students in grades pre-K through 5 and the Hawaii Foodbank fills a vital role for the school as 90-percent of its student body is at risk of going home hungry.
Each month, boxes of backpacks line the stage at the school's cafeteria, but instead of books, each is filled with meals for students to take home.
"The population that we serve, a lot of socioeconomic status families on free or reduced lunch," said principal Rodney Moriwake. "This is contributing to something that will sustain them throughout the weekend as we provide breakfast and lunches for our students on a daily basis Monday through Friday."
The nourishment is part of the school's Keiki Backpack program, which serves 390 of the students and their families who can't afford meals regularly.
"This provides a way that's easy to prepare food for the young ones so that if they are home alone, they can still be able to eat without having to go through any hard cooking or anything like that," said Polly Kauahi, director of development with the Hawaii Foodbank.
Packed by volunteers at the Foodbank's main warehouse, bags are filled with various non-perishable foods then distributed to students each week-- free of charge.
Bridget Kanaka'ole has overseen the program since it started five years ago.
"I think it's very necessary," said Kanakaole, who helps distribute the bags weekly. "A lot of the kids enjoy it because we do service homeless shelters and low income housing and we do have kids that are homeless, homeless."
As of now, Kaiulani is the only school in Hawaii that has the program.
Hawaii Foodbank estimates one in five children don't know where their next meal is coming from and would like to take the backpacks across the state.
"Since the program was initiated, we've heard some great stories about the kids being better," Kauahi said. "Not having to rush food lines and actually an increase in attendance as well."