Teacher Gives Tasty G.I.F.T. To Homeless
In just one month, Vivian Chau’s Give It Fresh Today ( G. I. F. T.) program at Kapiolani Community College’s Farmers’Market collected more than 850 pounds of produce to feed the homeless.
“Just the generosity that I get to see and experience because of this program is amazing,” said Chau, an enrichment teacher at Assets School. “The whole community has really rallied around it.”
The idea to get healthy food into the mouths of those who can’t afford it sparked after Chau watched a few films about healthy eating, including Food. Inc., Ingredients and Eat Local. But it wasn’t until a trip to Chicago last October that Chau was introduced to the concept of a fresh produce drive.
“In Chicago there was a woman who had a similar program at a farmers’ market,” said Chau. “She had a basket and was collecting food for a local food pantry.”
Chau contacted the Institute for Human Services and Unity Church of Hawaii, which both expressed interest in receiving fresh produce for their meal services. Chau also
approached the Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation, sponsor of the KCC Farmers’Market, to inquire about starting such a program.
She was given the green light in January and has collected an average of 200 pounds of food each Saturday since.
“Many of the shoppers have made it a habit to stop by and drop something off,” said Chau. “They’ll take half of what they bought and give it to us, or they’ll take one tomato from their bag and give that to us. And the farmers have somewhere to bring their leftover produce.
“More and more farmers are participating, but I never wanted the program to be about the farmers donating, because they are doing their part by growing the food.”
The one-month trial period has exploded into possibilities, and Chau will not only be extending G.I.V.E.’s stay at KCC, but she is in the works of expanding the program to other markets.
“Right now the organizations are still able to use everything we give them, but as we expand, we will be needing organizations that are able to accept fresh produce, and have the cold storage needed to house the produce until it’s served,” added Chau.
Unexpected by its founder, the G.I.V.E. program has encouraged donations beyond purchases at the market — many people are bringing in produce from home.
“Those who have breadfruit trees will bring us breadfruit, and some will come with cardboard boxes filled with tangerines,” said Chau. “There was a sweet older woman who brought handpicked string beans from her garden. It’s been so cool to see the ways people want to help.”
The G.I.F.T. booth, located next to the Hawaii Farm Bureau, accepts fresh produce and monetary donations during market hours: 7:30-11 a.m. every Saturday. For more information or to volunteer, e-mail Chau at email@example.com.
Give It Fresh Today (G.I.F.T.) founder Vivian Chau with boyfriend William Best collect a variety of fresh produce at KCC’s weekly farmers’ market to help feed Hawaii’s hungry and promote healthy eating. Photo from Chau.