The Kūpuna Food Security Coalition (KFSC) is a partnership of about 40 organizations formed in response to COVID-19 to ensure kūpuna access to food/meals. HIPHI continues to convene the KFSC biweekly to share best practices, challenges, and stories from the field. An emerging theme from this community of learning is that while food/meal distribution services are important in a time of ever-increasing food insecurity (according to Feeding America, as of October 2020, Hawaiʻi is 4th in the nation for largest increase in food insecurity compared to pre-COVID-19), the “point-of-care” interaction with home-bound, isolated, or otherwise vulnerable kūpuna while delivering meals opens the door to critical support that, in some cases, have been life-saving.

To support the work of KFSC partners, HIPHI partnered with the City and County of Honolulu, Elderly Affairs Division to initiate the Expanded Meal Service Plus (EMSP) program, distributing $3,000,000 of federal CARES funding to meal service providers. This program adopted an innovative model, coordinating meal deliveries with wraparound care services, meaning program recipients would have access to not only food, but also to services such as counseling, health and wellness checks, and assistance with enrolling in long-term, sustainable benefits like SNAP. Beyond connections to additional services, partnering organizations have reported how just delivering a meal can be pivotal in a kupuna’s health and well-being.

A story from Our Kūpuna, an EMSP grantee and KFSC member:

Waimea residents Sydney Limtiaco, 79, and the Honda family are coronavirus friends. They might have never met if it weren’t for the pandemic.  But now the Hondas are Limtiaco’s lifeline for food and medications. “For many years I suffered from chronic pneumonia, so my lungs are weak, and I use an inhaler,” says Ms. Limtiaco, a widow who lives alone without a car. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Limtiaco would rely upon county transportation services for errands. But when the pandemic started, Limtiaco knew she had to stay home and even now as the state opens up, Limtiaco isn’t leaving her house because of her high-risk status.

The Honda family have been volunteering for Our Kūpuna since April, and Kim Honda is registered as the EBT card alternate user.  “We wanted a family project to do together, something that would be helpful to someone else in our community during this time,” says Kim Honda, a schoolteacher at Hawaiʻi Preparatory Academy, who read about Our Kūpuna in a local newsletter.  She, her husband, Dean, fit the volunteer requirements, so they registered to become volunteers. Their children, 17-year-old daughter Malia, a senior at HPA, and 15-year-old son Jakob are also involved with the errands.  Malia is accumulating hours for her driving test; she delivers the groceries to Ms. Limtiaco’s doorway while staying 6 feet away, and they get to interact.

“They brought me flowers on Mother’s Day,” says Limtiaco. “Since I lost my daughter 12 years ago, that meant a lot.” To show the Hondas her appreciation, Limtiaco made them a pot of soup and a lemon meringue pie to take home. “The Hondas are wonderful angels to me.”

Similar stories from KFSC members are not uncommon, highlighting how these services have the potential to vastly improve the lives of our kūpuna community. Impact of the KFSC is currently being documented in an After Action Report that is on track to be released in January 2021. For more information on the KFSC, visit hiphi.org/kupuna.