#FRN5Years and Trifecta Present: An Interview With University of Hawaii at Manoa

All of our FRN chapter leaders fit the maxim, “If you want to get something done, ask the busy person.” Jenny Park, president of the University of Hawaii at Manoa chapter, is no exception. One would imagine Jenny heading for one of Hawaii’s beautiful beaches during her recent spring break. No, far from it. She spent the week in the country of Fiji assisting the Hawaiian Eye Foundation in performing 28 cataract eye surgeries. With a double major in biology and psychology, Jenny still finds time to recover food from her school’s cafeteria and deliver it to a remarkable non-profit five miles away, the Institute for Human Services (IHS), which prepares more than 900 meals every single day. Working closely with Sodexo’s general manager, Donna Ojiri, and her staff, the students deliver 250 to 300 pounds of food every Friday of the school year.

From left to right: Jessica B., Jessica P., Theresa C., Lauren T.

From left to right: Jessica B., Jessica P., Theresa C., Lauren T.

Left to Right: Olivia K., Keala S., Jessica P.

Left to Right: Olivia K., Keala S., Jessica P.

A small but active FRN chapter at the University of Hawaii at Manoa

Jenny Park will be a senior and FRN’s president for another school year come September 2017. Jenny especially likes the University of Hawaii at Manoa for its diversity with three main ethnic groups--indigenous Hawaiian/Polynesian, Asian, and Caucasian students, as reflected in the ethnicity of the FRN student chapter members. She attributes much of her success to “a very inspiring figure,” Heather Fucini, the chapter’s former  president and “one of the most passionate people” Jenny has met in her work with FRN.

Despite the fame for its unique beaches, landscapes, and volcanoes, Hawaii has a huge homelessness problem, as Jenny explains, “one of the worst in the U.S.”  It was only natural for the university’s FRN chapter to choose a nonprofit benefitting the homeless,  the Institute for Human Services, as an official partner agency.  Jenny likes  having the institute’s clients help the students carry in the food packed for their Friday deliveries.

Jenny praises FRN for the opportunity it gives students, who may devote as little as two hours per week to the cause, to make for real change in their community.  Jenny’s hope is that FRN will grow in the years to come to include food recoveries at local hospitals, restaurants and other businesses. Jenny is also grateful for the ready support of the school’s food service, Sodexo, and its general manager, Donna Ojiri.

Sodexo Focuses on Lowering Food Waste in Landfills

Donna Ojiri, the general manager of Sodexo, enjoys getting to know new student volunteers with their “different leadership styles” every year. Her employees “look forward to the weekly Friday food recoveries and helping the students pack up the food for the IHS shelter.” Keeping waste to a minimum is one main focus of Sodexo’s. As Donna explains, “We live on an island so we definitely do not want to send waste to the landfill.” Because of FRN’s rescues, “we have less food waste to put in our EcoFeed containers.” EcoFeed is a food disposal system that serves Manoa and other areas of the island by recycling food waste placed in labeled containers that they regularly deliver to pig farms for the pigs to eat.

Donna Ojiri sees FRN’s influence becoming international in its scope as students from other countries observe the chapter’s work. “We have had a group of students from Japan and Indonesia who were very interested in the FRN activities . . . It is very interesting to see that food recovery efforts are also being studied in other countries.” Donna also appreciates the fact that the FRN volunteers are connecting her kitchen with very “thankful” consumers, namely the clients of the Institute of Human Services, as her marketing staff has observed on a recent visit to one of its shelters.

“Children and families get first-choice."

No one seems more dedicated to improving the lives of others than Anna Alualu, meal program manager at the Institute for Human Resources. The institute’s mission is to “to create and offer tailored housing solutions for those in crisis, and nurture homeless people toward greater self-direction and responsibility.” (You can find more information about IHS at www.ihshawaii.org).  Besides providing personal counseling and job trainings, the institute offers separate shelters for men, women and children, those newly released from a hospital, and homeless veterans. They also have 28 transitional housing units for families for whom they help find permanent housing. As meal program manager, Anna oversees meals for at least 900 people per day. Anna sees that FRN food donations first go to children and their families. The IHS kitchen staff often stretches the weekly delivery to 100 or more meals. Donna calls the FRN donations the “best source for top meats” like roast beef, which her tight kitchen budget would never allow. Much of it, like chicken tetrazzini and kiwi fruit, is food her clients have never seen before and thus she sees an educational purpose in introducing them to healthy eating and cooking. On first glance, the children in particular will ask, “What is that?” They typically are surprised at how good “that” can be!

Left to Right: Shari W., Olivia K., Jessica B., Lauren T.

Left to Right: Shari W., Olivia K., Jessica B., Lauren T.

FRN student volunteers give generously

Anna Alualu is “grateful,” as she says, for the students she has met through her association with FRN. Like Donna Ojiri of Sodexo, she has nothing but praise for all that the student volunteers do to make a difference in the lives of those less fortunate and to create a more livable environment for their community. FRN student volunteers at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, as busy as they may be, always have time to augment both the quantity and quality of food served by Hawaii’s largest homeless shelter and support organization, the remarkable Institute for Human Services. Student Jenny Park, indeed, lives up to her own words: “even the smallest of things and the most menial of tasks can serve to help those around you.”