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Hawaii’s ‘Great Unifier’

Hannah Hyun

Hannah Hyun

For everyone involved, Pop-up Food Distributions provide more than food.

2020 is proving to be one doozy of a year; the highlight, of course, being COVID-19. I can’t think of one person in my life who hasn’t been affected by this pandemic — lending support to the claims that this novel coronavirus may just be the greatest equalizer our generation has seen.

It’s easy to look around and see how COVID-19 has brought out the worst in some people. Stories of hoarding, xenophobia and looting all come to mind. But the optimist in me would like to believe that these are exceptions. Although devastating, COVID-19 isn’t the first crisis or even pandemic our world has ever endured. And history has shown: the worst situations can bring out the best in people and their communities.

This could not be more evident in how the people of Hawaii have responded to this adversity in the last several months. I had the privilege of volunteering at one of Hawaii Foodbank’s Pop-up Food Distributions at Aloha Stadium — where an estimated 4,000 Hawaii households were served with produce, dairy, noodles and meat products from various donors.

I wanted to do my part to give back to my community during this difficult time and was prepared for a long, hot day of physical labor. What I wasn’t prepared for was what my community would give back to me. I was overcome with humility, gratitude, hope, strength, trust, faith and the truest form of aloha I’ve felt in a long time. It was amazing to see the army of volunteers come together so quickly and efficiently — with every volunteer in place and a place for every volunteer. The unity I felt was palpable, and the mood was kept upbeat and light with music, dancing, conversations, laughter and encouragement.

"I was overcome with humility, gratitude, hope, strength, trust, faith and the truest form of aloha I’ve felt in a long time."

A woman I spent some time breaking down boxes with shared that she had just lost her job of 15 years and was filing for unemployment for the first time. She very well could have been one of the cars in line, but she was alongside me volunteering and offering encouragement to those we were serving. “I’ve always wanted to get involved with Hawaii Foodbank,” she said. “And now I have the time.”

It’s hard to grasp what hunger multiplied by 4,000 households looks like. To be honest, I was there — and I’m still in awe of what was accomplished that day (which was only one of many large-scale distribution events Hawaii Foodbank has spearheaded since the onset of COVID-19).

Yes, the sea of cars was overwhelming at times, and the line was endless and constant. But so were the words of gratitude, tears of joy, sighs of relief, shakas and smiles shown by each recipient. During this time of uncertainty, there are three things I am sure of: Hawaii’s people are resilient, masks can’t hide smiles and — if COVID-19 is the “great equalizer” — aloha is an even greater unifier.

About the Author

Hannah Hyun is an original member of Hawaii Foodbank’s Alaka‘i, a passionate group of young leaders dedicated to ending hunger in Hawaii.

Hannah has more than 15 years of experience in traditional and grassroots advertising, marketing, public relations, strategic planning, events, and social media management. Her diverse background in media sales, agency account management, media planning and buying, as well as in-house corporate marketing, gives her a deep knowledge of how these entities best work together to service a client’s needs.

Hannah worked in Hawaii’s renewable energy industry in marketing and business development, and she has managed public outreach and awareness initiatives for clients in both the private and public sectors. As a self-declared foodie, Hannah likes to stay abreast of Honolulu’s evolving food scene, and she has built and managed social media platforms for some of the most anticipated and talked-about new restaurants on O‘ahu.

Hannah has lended her expertise to help develop Hawaii Foodbank’s marketing efforts, and she has played an integral role in the creation and promotion of a variety of fundraising events like Beat Hunger and “You CAN Cook, Too.”

Aside from her professional and philantropic endeavors, Hannah enjoys tinkering with new recipes in the kitchen, reading mommy blogs, journaling, and chasing sunsets with her husband and daughter. She also savors solo Target runs.

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