9.3% of the population in Hawaii lives at or below the poverty level, according to DataUsa. Similarly, USA Today named Hawaii the most expensive place to live in the United States when considering the cost of housing and food. With the high cost of living, attending college is difficult for all age groups as students struggle to balance work with studies, family, and social lives. Many students must make sacrifices in order to pursue the investment of education, such as going without lunch to stretch every dollar. One such former student, Iris Latu, who has worked at UHMC as an Office Assistant under Operations and Maintenance for 18 years, knows what it’s like to be a student and mother on Maui. She has played an integral part in the formation and running of the student club Hui Haumana. Hui Haumana’s club mission is “To serve the students of the University of Maui College community with activities aimed at funding those students in need of assistance by connecting them to services on the campus or in the community.”
Hui Haumana has been an active club on UHMC campus for three years. It began with Aunty Iris and other switchboard workers realizing that many students were skipping lunch and going to class hungry. Aunty Iris began to bring saimin and vienna sausage to hand out to hungry students. As students who worked alongside Aunty Iris also became interested in handing out food to their peers, a club was formed.
The process to sign up with Hui Haumana to receive free food is simple: students are not required to provide income verification or report any of the assistance they might receive from the school to government programs such as SNAP or TANF. Each person needs only to complete a simple form and will then be issued a number to help keep things confidential. Upon entering the room, an individual only needs to give a worker or club member their number to receive food or other items.
The club works diligently to ensure a wide range of resources for hungry or struggling students. A large storage room has been dedicated as the storage and preservation area of food items. Club members know that busy schedules limit the amount students are able to drop by for food. With that in mind, members fill backpacks with enough food to last a few days. Also available through Hui Haumana are toiletry items such as shampoo and conditioner, suntanning lotion, toothpaste, and toothbrushes. Various other items are available occasionally as they are donated, such as clothing, water bottles, messenger bags, and free school supplies.
Hui Haumana gathers food through partnering with the Maui Food Drive, donations from students and staff members, and fundraising. The Hui has also played a part in giving back to the community through the Maui Food Drive by hosting food collections on campus. Altogether, the campus donated a whopping 618 pounds of canned and boxed goods towards the cause.
This compassionate group gets creative when it comes to fundraising. Members and advisers often plan car washes – but rather than washing cars for cash, they ask for a donation of food. If they do happen to receive cash, it is spent on pre-paid tickets to Pa’ina or gift cards to local grocery stores, which are then handed out to various students in need. Another fundraiser the group has set up is a silent auction. Potential buyers are led to look through the mailroom of items varying in cost. Rather than auctioning for the item with money, buyers are encouraged to use food items. For example, an individual interested in buying a movie ticket might bid with a case of top ramen noodles.
The Hui Haumana club is open to any student, whether just stopping by for a snack before class or a frequent visitor. The enthusiastic club is constantly thinking of new ideas to help the students. Recently, Aunty Iris added a small Book Box to the mailroom. The idea is to take a book for personal enjoyment and leave a book behind for others to enjoy.
If one is interested in being part of this culture of malama on campus, there are a few ways to get involved. Clothing can be donated to The Learning Center while food can be given directly to the Hui Haumana club in the basement of the library. For those with a desire for more regular involvement, joining the club is quite simple. One only needs to visit the basement of the library with their email address and wait to be contacted with notifications of upcoming events. The Hui Haumana members work diligently to ensure students on campus have what they need to be successful academically. This is a club that is geared mainly towards students struggling financially but is useful for anyone who needs a quick bite to eat in between classes.