The state needs your help to feed thousands of children on meal program waiting list

Published: Jun. 30, 2021 at 5:01 PM HST|Updated: Jun. 30, 2021 at 5:08 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state’s Kaukau 4 Keiki meal kit program fills boxes with fresh vegetables, fruits, meats and grains that go to children whose families need help with food.

Each box contains enough to feed a child two meals a day for a week.

“We’ve had a lot of help with producing the 8,000 boxes that we are providing to keiki a week,” said Sharlene Wong, administrator of the Hawaii Child Nutrition Programs.

Her office works with private and community partners to conduct the summer program that also helps local growers. On Oahu, Kahumana Organic Farms works with 50 other farmers.

The state pays them for their produce.

“It’s been a rocky year for them. But these kinds of relationships and contracts is exactly what keeps them in business and what keeps them farming, and then contributes to help our food security,” said Saleh Azizi Fardkhales, who oversees Kahumana Farms Food Hub.

Youth 18 and under who don’t have access to the Department of Education’s Grab-and-Go meal service qualify for Kaukai 4 Keiki. The program is so successful, demand exceeds supply and funding.

“We have over 6,000 children on our waiting list,” Wong said.

The Hawaii Child Nutrition Programs office needs about $500,000 to meet the increased need, so it’s asking for help.

“On our page, every island has a little button that people can click on and donate funds to help our coalition partners pay for the extra expenses,” Wong said.

Donations will enable her office to set up more food hub sites, and pay for packing and delivering the additional meal kits.

The Kaukau4Keiki program started the first week of June and runs through the end of July. Practically all of the food in a meal box is locally grown.

“For whatever we can do local we will do local because that stays in our economy, and it helps create jobs and support our farmers,” Fardkhales said.

Wong said the immediate goal is to feed the thousands of hungry children who are waiting for meals, and to provide start-up funds for next year.

“We would like this program to continue forever, if possible, to feed children in the summer,” she said.

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