Sharing Food is Part of our Culture

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Photo: Andreana Reyes

By Andreana Dudoit Reyes

“I ola no ke kino, i ka māʻona o ka ʻōpū: The body enjoys health when the stomach is well filled.” – ʻŌlelo Noʻeau

Hui, how you?” “Eh, come inside, go eat!” is the usual exchange of greetings when visiting a home in Hawaiʻi. Sharing food is an important part of our culture, playing a key role in connecting ʻohana and communities. These cultural practices contribute to our overall health and wellbeing. However, the steady rise of Hawaiʻi’s cost of living (food costs in Honolulu increased by 5.6% in 2020), the significant number of people without a livable income (including 40% of all Native Hawaiian families), and other factors limit access to food, especially nutrient-rich healthy foods.

Food insecurity across Hawaiʻi is an ongoing public health concern. Feeding America reports that one in six people in Hawaiʻi were food insecure in 2020, up from one in nine in 2019. Most alarmingly, Hawaiʻi ranks second highest in the nation for food insecurity among children, with one in four children falling into this category. This is not just a transient problem. Adequate nutrition is critical to the overall development of children and food insecurity is directly linked to their health, educational, and behavioral outcomes.

Liliʻuokalani Trust (LT) began exploring food security with a focus on local food systems and sustainable agriculture in 2019 and co-hosted a panel of experts on this topic at a 2020 impact investing event. When COVID-19 hit Hawaiʻi, the stay-at-home orders and the decimation of the tourism industry left many unable to secure food and other basic needs. In response, LT joined with other Hawaiʻi organizations to address this crisis, networking to ensure kamaliʻi and ʻohana had access to food.

In 2020, LT teammates collaborated in 285 food distributions across Hawaiʻi which collectively distributed over 80,000 food boxes and nearly 46,000 prepared meals with an estimated value over $7.4 million. A total of 77 of those distributions were with Ham’s Produce and Seafood through the USDA’s Farmers to Families Program. In 2021, LT continues to partner with Ham’s Produce and others to support food distributions. LT also continues to promote systems change, working with other partners in the ʻIke ʻAi hui to use modern and traditional knowledge to understand and transform the food system of Hawaiʻi toward sustainability, climate change resilience, human health, and aloha.

As your means allow, please support the effort to ensure no child suffers from hunger or malnutrition by donating time, money or food to feed the hungry and supporting sustainable local agriculture for local consumption.

Food Insecurity in Hawaiʻi Infographic

Food Insecurity Infographic – PDF Format

Andreana Dudoit Reyes is from Hoʻolehua, Molokaʻi and is the strategic initiatives manager at Liliʻuokalani Trust. Her interests are enhancing social equity and the overall wellbeing of Hawaiians. She is a past beneficiary of the trust and believes that every kamaliʻi can reach their full potential and achieve their dreams with the appropriate resources and support.