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Food Trucks & Care Givers—An Unexpected Relationship

University of Hawai‘i Foundation
July 17, 2020

Naomi Campbell had a full schedule before Covid-19 turned the world upside down. As the primary caretaker for her elderly mother and young grandson, the retired Maui resident juggled weekly grocery shopping trips, doctor appointments, and soccer games. Faced with managing her family’s needs during a pandemic, Campbell could have been overwhelmed. Luckily, an innovative meal voucher program provided some relief.

Enter Heather Greenwood, who offers stress management and communication classes for those caring for an aging spouse, a parent, or a grandchild as part of the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR) at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. “Family caregivers experience stress and put their own health needs on the back burner. But if they’re not able to care for the grandparent or children, no one benefits,” Greenwood says. “The goal is to reduce the level of burnout.”

She noticed that families who were struggling before the Covid outbreak were struggling even more afterward. “Local food trucks were also struggling,” she says. “So an idea was born.” CTAHR partnered with the Maui Food Technology Center—a cooperative of fifteen food trucks—to offer family caregivers free meals. Former participants of CTAHR’s education programs received “kūpuna meal vouchers” to redeem at their choice of fifteen food trucks—twelve on Maui and three on Moloka‘i.

Kamehameha Schools funded the program through June and the Strong Fund of the Hawai‘i Community Foundation sponsored July. During the first month of the program, Greenwood distributed over a thousand meal vouchers. “The vouchers provide three to five meals a week, so it really lifts some of the burden and allows the family to get out a little bit,” says Greenwood. It’s especially helpful for families living in rural areas where access to grocery stores can be a challenge.

Campbell says the program cut her shopping trips by half. “It gave me extra time to rest and not worry about what meal to cook or what to get at the store,” she says. “And we are able to try new foods.” She maximizes the vouchers to get three meals out of two tickets, ordering new favorites: pastele stew and chicken from the Pastele House and pulled pork or shrimp from Nani Pirates.

“I’m so thankful,” she says. “This meal truck program has been a blessing for me. It’s such a treat.”

University of Hawaii Foundation