Kaukau 4 Keiki summer food program accepting applications, volunteers on Kaua‘i

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From left: Lana Bilbo, Olivia Sue, Stormy Soza and Marina Mireles hold up a meal box. Photo Courtesy: malama_kauai, Instagram

Kaukau 4 Keiki, a statewide USDA Summer Food Service Program, is entering its fourth year of operation – and on Kaua‘i, it may be in more demand than ever.

“We’ve already received over 350 applications in the first 24 hours,” said Executive Director Megan Fox of Mālama Kaua‘i. The nonprofit, dedicated to local food production and access, helms Kaukau 4 Keiki on the Garden Isle.

“That’s the fastest we have ever gotten that many applications,” Fox continued. “I think the economy and food costs are really hitting people hard right now.”

Applications for the 2024 summer food program opened last Tuesday. Through Kaukau 4 Keiki, Mālama Kaua‘i will prepare and deliver 500 meal boxes once per week for nine weeks, from June 3 to July 29. Each box will contain seven days’ worth of breakfasts and lunches.

“Summertime is probably the height of childhood food insecurity across the nation. It’s really the time when folks need [food programs] the most because there aren’t as many alternatives,” said Fox. “There’s no in-school meals and things like that.”


Food insecurity occurs when people don’t have enough to eat and don’t know where their next meal will come from, according to Feeding America. The nationwide nonprofit’s 2023 “Map the Meal Gap” report – which uses 2021 data – labels Kaua‘i County with a 10.8% food insecurity rate, or 7,890 individuals who experience food insecurity.

The word “Kaukau” in the name Kaukau 4 Keiki means to eat or drink.

“It does a lot of things for families … We’ve found that it relieves stress, it improves the mental health of the families,” Fox said of the meal program. “They eat healthier, they eat more together and 100% of them feel a stronger sense of community from it. They feel supported and a part of something, which is really important when you’re struggling, that you feel everybody is together.”

Volunteers from the Liliʻuokalani Trust volunteer for Kaukau 4 Keiki on Kaua‘i. Photo Courtesy: malama_kauai, Instagram

Indeed, many people are required to put Kaukau 4 Keiki into effect. Mālama Kaua‘i and its community partners are “always looking for more volunteers” to assist in packing and distribution, according to Fox, who said help is already needed to assemble the 4,500 meal boxes slated for use this summer.

The boxes are distributed through limited home delivery and pickup locations throughout the Garden Isle, like schools, churches and even one volunteer’s driveway. Meal program enrollment tends to correlate with towns’ respective sizes: Many of Kaukau 4 Keiki’s participating families live in the population centers of Kapa‘a, Līhu‘e and Kōloa.


East Side nonprofit Kūkulu Kumuhana O Anahola is one of more than a dozen entities that partner with Mālama Kaua‘i through Kaukau 4 Keiki; Others include Kōloa Elementary School, Kaua‘i United Church of Christ in Kapa‘a and Waimea Huaka‘i.

Kūkulu Kumuhana O Anahola has operated a pickup location since the meal program’s beginning, serving an estimated 60 keiki in its rural community per year.

“It’s pretty amazing, actually, how the program has served Anahola families. We have several families with a lot of children and during the summer it can be very difficult for them, regarding food for the entire family,” said Rae Nam, executive director of Kūkulu Kumuhana O Anahola.

“The comments that we’ve received from parents have always been very favorable. They’re always like, ‘You have no idea how much this is helping us,’” Nam continued. “Especially having a place where they could just stop in their own community to be able to pick up these foods has been very helpful … Mālama Kaua‘i really makes a huge impact on our entire island community of Kaua‘i.”

Olivia Sue and Lex White of Mālama Kaua‘i boost Kaukau 4 Keiki. Photo Courtesy: malama_kauai, Instagram

Meal boxes prioritize locally sourced items, typically featuring Kaua‘i-made bread, granola and poi alongside lots of Kaua‘i-grown fruits and vegetables. Kaua‘i Kookie salad dressing and Honolulu-based Sinaloa tortilla chips are often included, too, as are cans or jars of chicken, tuna, peanut butter and more.


Each box also comes with a colorful seven-day meal plan providing recipes tailored to the box’s contents. See a 2023 meal plan here.

“This is really one of the best programs we do because there’s so much community involvement: People coming together to take care of our keiki together,” said Fox. “It really makes it quite beautiful.”

Nam, speaking from Anahola, would have agreed.

“They share a common goal as we do,” she said of Mālama Kaua‘i. “Our partnerships are important because we care about our children.”

For more information about Kaukau 4 Keiki on Kaua‘i – including volunteer and donation opportunities, and keiki eligibility requirements and application forms – click “Kaukau 4 Keiki” under the “Our Programs” tab at, or click here.

Scott Yunker
Scott Yunker is a journalist living on Kauaʻi. His work for community newspapers has earned him awards and inclusion in the 2020 anthology "Corona City: Voices from an Epicenter."
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