For over two decades, Soledad Obado, also known as Mama Sue, ran the food pantry on Lanai, helping individuals and families get nutritious and well-rounded meals. When she retired at age 91, she asked the energetic Divina Costales to step in and help.
“Mama Sue was a big-time inspiration to me. Mama Sue, along with Aunty Patricia Kawasaki and Letty Castillo, were just amazing powerhouses, running the pantry for all those years,” said Costales. “I learned so much from them.”
For almost a year now, Costales has been helping make sure all of Lanai’s residents have food on their table. With fellow church members Pricilla Felipe and Diane Ribucan, Costales helps to coordinate the shipments to Sacred Hearts Church from the Maui Foodbank. Once the barge arrives, Pulama Lanai assists by taking the pallets over to the church, and from there, the volunteers contact the other organizations who help with distribution including Maui Economic Opportunity (MEO), Women Helping Women, Lanai Youth Center, Union Church and Hale Kupuna.
Henry, Costales’ husband, also got involved with the pantry and sometimes provides the “muscle,” helping to carry the deliveries. “I just want to help the community. It’s an older community with a lot of retirees,” said Henry.
Plenty to Go Around
To start receiving food from the food pantry, residents just need to fill out an application listing some basic information. Generally, residents who qualify for the food pantry usually have monthly incomes of $2000 or less. However, anyone who thinks they could use assistance is encouraged to apply.
After approval, residents are invited to the pantry twice a month to pick what they need. A delivery service is also available for elderly or for residents who are not able to pick up the food themselves. In addition to serving seniors and individuals, the pantry has also been providing healthy snacks to almost 100 kids a month during Sacred Hearts’ religious education programs.
A Vision for the Future
From time to time, the food pantry receives produce or chilled items. However, right now, many of the items at the food pantry are canned or non-perishable goods. Costales hopes that one day, the pantry can collaborate with local farms to offer fresh produce to residents. She envisions bringing in different cooks to help teach cooking classes or provide recipes using ingredients from the inventory.
For now, Costales message is simple: “If anyone is hungry out there, we want to help you get fed. And if you want to smile, you come to the food pantry. You’ll get fed in your heart, too.”
To volunteer for the food pantry or to apply to receive food from the pantry, contact Costales at 808-559-0007 or stop by the church at 815 Fraser Avenue.