The Kaukau 4 Keiki summer meal program was recently created to address the gap in food access for children in Hawaiʻi during the summer months. Supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Summer School Food Services, the Hawaiʻi Child Nutrition Program, and a team of private and public partners, the statewide program will run through July 30, 2021.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on food security in Hawaiʻi. A recent University of Hawaiʻi study found that “nearly half of Hawaiʻi families with children reported struggling to pay for meals as of March 2021”, with an estimated 54,700 children facing hunger across the state.
Kaukau 4 Keiki will provide a weekly meal kit of breakfasts and lunches for children in rural communities who cannot access the Department of Education’s Grab and Go summer meal distribution sites. Service providers across the state include Mālama Kaua‘i for Kaua‘i, Kahumana Food Hub & Organic Farms for Oʻahu, Maui United Way for Maui and Lānaʻi, and Vibrant Hawaiʻi for Hawaiʻi island. Molokai will be providing a separate meal service program through Kualapuʻu Public Charter School.
Kaukau 4 Keiki is utilizing the Summer Food Service Program, a federally-funded, state-administered program, to reimburse program operators who serve free healthy meals and snacks to children and teens in low-income areas. Kaukau 4 Keiki aims to source much of the food for its weekly meal boxes from Hawaiʻi, supporting local food producers as much as possible.
The Kaukau 4 Keiki program highlights the barriers to food access that often underlie food insecurity – from lack of transport to conflicting family work schedules that make accessing food distribution sites impossible. Even within its pilot year, the Kaukau 4 Keiki program received more than double the estimated number of signups for families seeking food assistance for their children this summer. The Kaukau 4 Keiki program hopes to gain support to continue for future years, and to inspire similar programs, to address the predictable gap in food access for keiki in Hawaiʻi during school holidays.