6 People Making a Difference in Honolulu

Meet a few people making Honolulu a better place for all of us.

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Vivian Best

Vivian Best says she first became inspired to help reform Hawaii’s food-supply network after watching documentaries such as Food, Inc., Fresh and Ingredients. But it wasn’t until a trip to Chicago that she realized exactly how she could be effective. Best met a woman at a farmers’ market who was accepting excess fresh fruit and vegetable donations to be given to homeless shelters.

Best, a part-time teacher at Kahala Elementary School and coordinator of the Aina in Schools program there, brought the idea back to Hawaii, starting small in 2010, with a table, a wicker basket from Goodwill and a couple of poster boards decorated with doodles of vegetables.

Now, her Give It Fresh Today (GIFT) program accepts more than 24,000 pounds of food annually, of which 200 to 250 pounds per week come from its table at the KCC farmers’ market. The nonprofit Aloha Harvest picks up the food, as does Unity Church, and delivers the goods to various outlets that provide nourishment to impoverished and homeless people throughout Oahu.

“[GIFT is] changing the way people view their excess,” says Best. “In the past you’d bring a box of avocados to work, people would get sick of all the avocados. Sometimes, you can’t eat all the fruit from your trees, so GIFT gets people to think about their food waste. There are families who come to the table, they take a little bit out of each bag, one cucumber, one tomato, two ears of corn. It’s changing people’s shopping habits.”

Best says meals for recipients are changing, as well. “If they used to get a canned fruit or canned vegetable, now they’re more likely to have a fresh one on the plate. As far as the fruit, what we collect on Saturdays goes to feed the children at the Institute for Human Services. Unity Church always has a salad now at their Monday night seating. More nutritious food is even more important to vulnerable populations, such as those with HIV.”

GIFT accepts food donations at farmers’ markets at Windward Mall, Blaisdell Center, KCC and Kailua, but, with more than 60 farmers’ markets on Oahu, there’s a lot of room for expansion. Best says hers is a model that could be implemented anywhere, by anyone. “It’s an idea I wish more people would run with.”
 

Updated Nov. 4, 2013.

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