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Hawaii’s Ho‘okipa

I’ve always found this time of year fascinating. Rich in symbolism, the fall season takes on many meanings. At first, we’re encountered with change and transformation.

In most places around the world, transformation literally fills the air as leaves change colors and fall to the ground. Here at home, fall brings change, too. It’s a little more subtle, but — trust me — the air does get a little crisper this time of year. On top of that, summer fruit like mango and lychee no longer fill the trees, the clouds are building up with more precipitation, and the North Shore swells are beginning to arrive.

As we look towards fall in 2020, I’m sure many of us here in Hawaii are longing for those small, simple changes that typically accompany the season. Far from subtle, the changes we’ve endured this year are more aptly described as unprecedented, uncharted and unforeseen.

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we all live daily. This fall, every community in Hawaii is feeling the impact of this virus in one way or another. Aside from the devastating health and safety ramifications, the pandemic has produced an economic crisis incomparable to anything since the Great Depression. Even now — as tourism, education and other sectors in our community begin to reopen — it is clear the hardships brought on by the pandemic will persist for quite some time.

At Hawaii Foodbank, we are seeing persistent, elevated need, and for some the recovery will take years. 1 in 6 people in Hawaii are facing hunger in the wake of this pandemic. Roughly 80 percent of those attending our supplemental Pop-up Food Distributions this summer were unemployed or furloughed because of COVID-19.

The makeup of households facing hunger has changed drastically, and more and more families in Hawaii are finding themselves in need of help for the first time in their lives.

Pop-up Food Distribution
Pop-up Food Distribution

It’s hard not to become overwhelmed with changes like this. So much has happened since Hawaii’s first positive case of COVID-19, and for many of us it feels like we haven’t had a moment to reflect …

Reflect. That’s exactly what makes fall so special. Not only does the season mean change, but fall is also a quintessential time for reflection. This time of year, we remember to cherish the traditions that fundamentally shape who we are, and we’re reminded to look back at the past with a grateful heart — even when it is difficult to do so.

As I think about fall and traditions here in Hawaii, I can’t help but think of ho‘okipa. It’s a Hawaiian ideal closely associated with the tenets of hospitality. Ho‘okipa involves an authentic outpouring of aloha. To share your ho‘okipa is to unselfishly welcome others by extending the best of what we have to give. It’s at the core of Hawaii’s way of life. Throughout history, ho‘okipa is a tradition that’s carried our communities past adversity: epidemics, takeovers, shutdowns, tsunamis, the attack on Pearl Harbor, eruptions from Kīlauea, Hurricanes Iwa and Iniki, and more. No matter what the circumstances, the people of Hawaii have always reached deep within themselves to take care of those around them.

Ho‘okipa is etched so deeply into the fabric of our communities that — no matter what changes tomorrow brings — I firmly believe we will recover from this.

Today’s no different. Since the onset of COVID-19, your genuine ho‘okipa has once again enabled us to rise resiliently to meet the needs of our communities. With your help, Hawaii Foodbank has distributed more than 19 million pounds of food since March — 7 million more than was distributed in all of 2019. Your support has allowed us to adapt our operations and distribution methods, build new community partnerships, nurture existing relationships, and purchase more emergency food than ever before. Even more, your ho‘okipa is providing hungry families with nourishment, comfort and hope this fall season. On behalf of Hawaii Foodbank’s entire staff, volunteers and network of food partner agencies – mahalo nui loa for helping us maintain safe food access to our communities during this pandemic, as well as prepare for the long-term recovery ahead.

Yes — the changes we’ve felt this year can easily be described as unprecedented, uncharted and unforeseen. Yet at the same time, this year has also confirmed that Hawaii’s ho‘okipa is equally unwavering, unequivocal and unparalleled. At Hawaii Foodbank, ho‘okipa is a tradition that defines our mission. It’s etched so deeply into the fabric of our communities that — no matter what changes tomorrow brings — I firmly believe we will recover from this. We’ll be stronger and more connected than ever before. We will #RiseResiliently. It’s who we are.

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