By Lexus Yamashiro | Staff Writer
For three years, KCC’s Culinary Arts program has been running the Summer Food Service Program, a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) funded program that feeds underprivileged children in various housing communities during summer programs in order to provide them with nutritious and well-balanced meals at no charge.
Spearheaded and approached by Ramona Mullahey from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Jennifer Dang from the Hawaiʻi Child Nutrition Program (HCNP), they turned to KCC with the hopes that its Culinary Arts program could collaborate with vendors in producing and providing meals to children around the island.
“[Mullahey] put it out to everybody that there was this need out in the community to feed school children during the summer,” said John Mizokawa, the Culinary Arts program’s Operations Manager. “The goal [was] to provide meals for children who might not have access to a good meal throughout the day.”
With the opportunity to help children in need as well as being able to put KCC’s name out into the community, several faculty members of the Culinary Arts program, such as Mizokaw, Department Chair Ronald Takahashi, and Health and Wellness coordinator Daniel Leung, came together to push this team project forward.
Provided with funding from the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grant program estimating in about $70,000, the Culinary Arts program was able to use this toward the purchase of ingredients for the summer meals, and also for the GoCook! Hawaiʻi fast track food service job training program in which its apprentices take part in producing and distributing the meals.
In 2015, the Summer Food Service Program was able to provide nutritious meals for underprivileged school children at three locations. In 2016, the program was able to reach out to five locations and provide about 600 meals a day, resulting in over 20,000 meals during the course of a two month period.
Currently, the program distributes meals to six housing complexes, including Kūhiō Park Terrace (recently renamed as The Towers at Kūhiō Park), Kukui Gardens, Pālama Settlement, Central Middle School, YMCA Nuʻuanu and YMCA Kalihi. With feedback coming in from these locations, Leung said that it creates a partnership that benefits KCC in terms of improving the food being provided for students and how it can be presented better in the future.
“That’s the kind of thing that we learn from this project that helps us develop school lunch recipes that would be not just tasty and healthy, but easy to serve and easy for the customer, which are the kids, to accept and welcome,” Leung said.
The meals are transported in a refrigerated truck funded by the TAACCCT grant. The KCC cafeteria staff, along with a few apprentices of the GoCook! Hawaiʻi training program, has been working together to produce farm to fork constructed meals, by purchasing fresh, local produce from farmers on the island.
The Summer Food Service Program recently got a step-van through Kaiser Foundation and Wal-Mart grants; its funding estimating to about $120,000 total, in which the program uses it to transport parts of the meals in hot boxes. Leung shared that with the funding provided, he is hoping that it can be used to upgrade the step-van with transportable kitchen equipment.
Leung said that the step-van will eventually serve as a food truck for the campus. According to Mizokawa, KCC used to have a King’s Hawaiian food truck, however, there hasn’t been any more since that one. With this new project in mind, Leung is hoping that the food truck will come to campus in the Spring 2018 semester and will sell healthy food items with a “grab and go” concept for students and faculty who may not have enough time to sit and eat their meals.
The food truck is looking to be stationed in Parking Lot A by the Kopiko building, which will serve food on Mondays through Thursdays. On Friday through Sunday, the food truck will do healthy cooking demonstrations by request in hopes to promote a healthy lifestyle and what KCC has to offer.
“The word ‘community’ [in community college] means we have to work in the community, educate the community, our programs have to benefit the community,” Leung said. “We’re not just an academic institution, so we have to be out there and let people out there know that we’re doing the work.”