Feed our keiki, fuel our future: help fight hunger in Hawaiʻi

With the COVID-19 pandemic threatening livelihoods and closing schools, preventing childhood hunger is more important than ever. Thousands of hard-working families have been thrust into a position where they no longer have access to the free school meals they rely on to supplement their household budgets.

The good news is that Hawaiʻi Appleseed Center for Law & Economic Justice is working closely with the Hawai‘i Department of Education and a number of community organizations throughout the state to ensure that free grab-and-go meals can be made available even while school is out.

That’s where the public can help. All through September, 2020, when customers visit local Safeway stores in Hawai‘i, they will see signs advertising the annual Nourishing Neighbors fundraiser sponsored by the Safeway Foundation and with the support of the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC). This year’s theme is “Feed Our Kids, Fuel Our Future.”

Making a donation at the register when you check out of any Safeway store on Kauaʻi, Oʻahu or Hawaiʻi Island will support our work to help students continue to receive free, healthy meals at a time when many families are struggling more than ever before.

“With the status of the 2020–21 academic year uncertain, and as the pandemic continues to place severe hardship on Hawaiʻi families, it is critical that we continue to support free, nutritious grab-and-go meals for keiki who need them,” said Daniela Spoto, Hawaiʻi Appleseed Director of Anti-Hunger Initiatives.

On a typical school day, nearly 65,000 economically disadvantaged Hawaiʻi students benefit from free or reduced-price school breakfast and lunch. For many, these are the only nutritious meals that they eat regularly. For their families, these meals help relieve financial stress by reducing their food budgets.

During a typical summer, when students are not able to eat free or reduced-price meals at school, community partners work together to provide food to children and youth in low-income areas via the federal Summer Food Service Program (SFSP). The free, healthy grab-and-go meals are prepared according to United States Department of Agriculture standards.

However, with schools closed for most of the second half of the previous academic year, these partners banded together to expand the program beginning in March. As of July 16, this partnership of rotating nonprofit and government organizations had established 30 grab-and-go meal sites serving some 5,500 children per day.

“It’s clear that the need for this program is there,” said Nicole Woo, Hawaiʻi Appleseed Senior Policy Analyst. “With Safeway Foundation’s Nourishing Neighbors fundraiser, we’ll be able to continue meeting that need with a program that is on track to serve more than 1.5 million meals in 2020.”

The Nourishing Neighbors campaign, formerly Hunger Is, will run the entire month of September at all 22 Safeway stores in Hawaiʻi. Donations at the four Maui Safeway locations will go to the Maui Food Bank, another worthy cause to support.