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Feeding Kupuna and Keiki—While Keeping Kauai’s Fishers Afloat

E Ola Mau and the Kekaha Agriculture Association

When the COVID-19 crisis struck, fishermen on Kauai’s rural West Side found themselves with plenty of fish but not so many buyers with restaurants only doing take-out. At the same time, the community’s furloughed tourism industry workers were finding it harder to feed their families. Two organizations with deep Kauai roots realized that these two problems could share a single solution.

With a Hawaii Resilience Fund grant and Board of Health approval, the kupuna-led community group E Ola Mau and the Kekaha Agriculture Association (KAA) have been purchasing fresh fish from local commercial fishermen at a discounted rate, then leveraging their robust community network to make sure the fish are distributed for free to the families and kupuna who need it most.

The first fish distribution fed 1,164 people on Kauai’s west side, and that number has been growing as word spreads. And it was broke da mouth fish, too, like—ono, koshibi, akule. E Ola Mau member Dennis Eguchi says, “the program can offer a template for other rural communities” as they navigate unprecedented waters. Demand has been so high that the organizations hope to add produce, eggs, and even ranch products to the distribution runs, all at a responsible social distance.

KAA community outreach facilitator Stephanie Iona says that Kauaians are used to helping each other through challenges: “We might say, now, we can’t do that,” says Iona, “but, this is what we can do.”

Kekaha Fish
Kekaha Fish
Kekaha Fish

Photos provided by: Kekaha Agriculture Association