'Cuz Can: The Punahou Food Drive

Travis Kim ’15

November 18, 2014

The following essay was written by senior Academy student Travis Kim ’15 for his News Journalism class. The Punahou Canned Food Drive, which runs from Nov. 4 - 21, 2014, supports the Hawaii Foodbank, a nonprofit organization that supports the state’s most vulnerable community members. Non-perishable food items are collected, organized and delivered to the Foodbank by student, faculty and parent volunteers.

Hunger is an issue that Punahou does not take lightly. By reaching out to students and their families, the School community collects thousands of cans for the Hawaii Foodbank every year with the Canned Food Drive.


According to the School's website, "Punahou’s annual Food Drive donated 8,693 pounds of food to the Hawaii Foodbank [last year]." As impressive as that sounds, last year's Food Drive started off extremely slowly, collecting a measly eighteen cans from the seven donation bins around campus on one day during the first week of the Drive. One of the collection bins contained only six cans.

"The six cans, early on in the Food Drive, were a real wake up call to our community, to everyone," said Terry Yamamoto-Edwards, assistant director of Luke Center for Public Service.

Luke Center for Public Service is the driving force behind the collection of canned foods every year, along with the support and education carried out in the Chapel program. Luke Leaders, students who have taken on leadership roles in our school community, are the brilliant minds behind motivating students to bring in cans. In reaction to the rough beginning to last year's Food Drive, Luke Leaders, along with the JROTC, Academy Band, Spanish language and many other classes and clubs, asked themselves, "What can we do?"

Johanna Au '15, a Luke Leader, organized one of the many inventive challenges created to motivate students to donate canned foods last year. In order to get her peers in the Class of 2015 to donate more cans, Johanna held last year's junior deans – Paris Priore ’76 Kim and William Ouellette – “hostage.” The situation involved both deans agreeing to wear the same clothes every day until 500 cans were collected. Johanna’s challenge was a massive success, raising over 700 cans.

"It’s about thinking of innovative ideas that people have never heard before and raising awareness and motivating people. That's the secret!" Johanna explained. "Find something that your target group cares about, and use it in a fun and creative way to motivate them."

As Johanna’s example demonstrates, one of the biggest challenges for the Food Drive is motivating Academy students to remember to donate. Junior School students are highly motivated because the issue of hunger is often integrated into their curriculum, and parents often help children remember to bring cans from home to donate. The Academy, on the other hand, often relies purely on self-motivation to bring in cans.

"Ultimately, especially in the Academy, students are in charge of themselves. The goal is to really impact them and their understanding and empathy," said Yamamoto-Edwards. "We want individuals to know why they are doing something and want to help others."

The real goal is to have students develop their understanding of the issue and realize how their actions can affect change to solve community issues. It's pushing the students to take advantage of the outlet Punahou has provided to make a difference, year after year. Luke Center staff hopes the Punahou community can work together to collect even more cans than last year by motivating each other and themselves. It's all about a shift in the student's mindset from "what can be done?" to "what can I do?"

Students can take action by bringing in non-perishable and canned food items to the donation bins on campus. There are many wooden collection bins on campus: Drop offs at K – grade 1; grades 2 – 3; grade 6; grades 7 – 8; PFA Office; Mamiya Science Center; and Chapel. Or bring your cans directly to Luke Center for Public Service and learn about how to volunteer time and energy to the cause.


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