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GIFT gets food to the homeless

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    Vivian Chau — seen here fixing a hibiscus given to her at the farmers market at Kapiolani Community College — runs Give It Fresh Today, a food donation program.

It was just last winter that Vivian Chau asked herself, "What’s my kuleana?"

One short year later, Chau is at the helm of a donation project that provides 1,000 pounds of fresh, locally produced food to the homeless each month. Her "Give It Fresh Today" — or GIFT — program involves dozens of volunteers and the good will of shoppers at the Hawaii Farm Bureau’s farmers market at Kapiolani Community College, where the food is collected and sent to shelters and church groups each week for homeless programs.

Chau initially set up a table at the market entrance on Jan. 2 with a sign asking shoppers to donate an extra head of lettuce or a couple of papaya, whatever they could spare. By the end of that first month, customers and farmers alike had donated 1,000 pounds of food.

"It’s been consistent and strong," says Chau. "Now people are discovering they can bring food from their home gardens. I feel like there’s potential with that."

To help grow that potential, upon request GIFT volunteers will do the picking for residents with fruit trees.

In fact, it seems there is potential on numerous fronts. In the coming year, Chau plans to set up GIFT booths at the Blaisdell Center and Kailua Farm Bureau markets.

And she has become something of a public figure, telling her story to schoolchildren and service clubs.

"It’s exciting to share with people how simple it all is," she says.


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One of Chau’s biggest contributions is illustrating the impact one person can make, says Alani Apio, board president of Kanu Hawaii.

"She saw a need and figured out a creative way to address it," he says. "Vivian’s doing a multifold good deed because she’s not only feeding people, she’s bringing fresh local food to people."

Chau says she hopes GIFT can serve as inspiration for new projects.

"There are so many organizations that can benefit from donations of healthy food. Shriners wrote to me about it. Oftentimes, people don’t think about organizations like Shriners needing fresh food," she says. "There are so many holes in our food system. There are so many markets. It would be great to see the ways we can benefit other projects."

Contact Vivian Chau via e-mail at


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