For this past Thanksgiving, student interns Leah Ramos and Kalani Akau and their advisor, Sothy Eng, took the initiative to collect fruits from families' backyards and put them together in baskets, which they donated to Mental Health Kōkua, a local organization that serves adults striving for mental wellness. The Urban Garden Center’s Fruit Hui immediately came on board, generously donating its entire harvest of lemon, tangerine, orange, papaya, mango, and starfruit, estimated to be more than 100 pounds of fresh, nutritious, delicious items – and all hand-picked by UGC volunteers Linda, Susie, Glenn, Jessie, Karen, Kim, and others.
“These fruit baskets not only provide nutritional food for our community members, but also help toward promoting sustainable food systems as abundant foods are being sourced and shared with those who are struggling with food access,” says Sothy of the Human Development and Family Studies program in the Dept. of Family and Consumer Sciences. “This food distribution is one of the elements within the food systems that connects between the home/community food systems with our community members who are suffering from social injustice of healthy food access."
Extension’s Kalani Matsumura adds, “The UGC volunteers normally donate these fruits to the Hawaiʻi Food Bank, as well as the CTAHR student food pantry, but today they are happy to support HDFS students’ Thanksgiving project to put together nice baskets for the needy. Thank you for the great work you're doing for families in Hawaiʻi!
Mental Health Kōkua serves adult individuals with disabilities and chronic illnesses often causing the individual to feel alone and separated from reality, explains Les Gusman, County Director-Oahu.
“This random act of kindness that you are providing gives them hope,” he says. “We appreciate Brooke Fisher, an HDFS alumni and MHK former intern, who is now doing her Master's in Social Work at Columbia University, for her continuous effort connecting CTAHRʻs Home Garden Network program to our organization.”