Invited to participate in a local TEDx Talk, Vivian Chau Best ’03 spoke on her “Give It Fresh Today” —or G.I.F.T.—program, in which people at farmers markets will buy a little extra to donate it to homeless shelters. She said she was traveling in Chicago when she first saw a donation table at a local farmers market and was determined to bring the concept back to Hawaii, where she now lives.
She notes that people normally give canned food to a shelter, but the table in Chicago challenged her to think about “what it would feel like to eat something that was fresh, eat something that was in season, eat something that was locally grown.” Additionally she points out that buying more local produce “votes for local availability”—the greater demand for fresh produce translates to dollars invested in farmlands.”I didn’t expect this cause to come and find me, but it did,” she admits.
Already a weekly shopper at the farmers markets in Honolulu (“I love locally grown food”), she started her produce donation program with handmade signs, a basket for food and a jar for monetary donations. Other local organizations and school groups have also gotten involved with G.I.F.T, adding signage and table coverings to raise the visibility of the project, as well as regularly contributing food and money.
At the time of the talk last year, Best said that they were receiving more than a thousand pounds of donated produce each month.
“It’s been amazing to watch the community gather around this effort,” she says. “Giving real food is a real gift,” she says.
For her work on the G.I.F.T. program, she was named one of the “Forty Under 40” young Hawaii business leaders by Pacific Business News. Learn more in this Wesleyan Connection article.