Fight Hunger By Donating Coconuts From Public Parks

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About the Author

Ari Walsh

Ari Walsh is a middle school student in Honolulu. She is a member of the Girl Scouts of Hawaii and the Aloha Council Boy Scouts of America.


Take a close look around your neighborhood.

At first glance, you might be able to identify an important source of food that is being wasted in our communities.

I am talking about the coconuts that are being mulched in our public parks by tree trimming companies hired by our local government officials.

A few weeks ago, I was walking down a path in Waikiki when I saw a landscaping company trimming the coconuts on a tree. The coconuts fell from 50-60 feet high and hit the ground. When they landed, they burst open. So, they were no longer of use as food.

After it was safe to pick up the coconuts, I saw the workers begin to mulch them along with the leaves of the coconut palm tree. I thought that there must be another way to use those coconuts. That gave me the idea that we should use our parks to help feed families that need healthy food right now.

Coconut trees near the entrance to Leahi Park, across from Diamond Head. If politicians act, coconuts from city parks could be used to help the hungry.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

So, I reached out to Teri Luna at the Hawaii Foodbank. She told me that one in eight families are in need of assistance in Hawaii. I also learned that Feeding America estimates that more than 54 million people in the United States “may face hunger because of the coronavirus pandemic … including a potential 18 million children.”

That means that we urgently need to find creative ways to support the food banks.

Coconuts from public parks fit the bill. Honestly, what’s not better than giving the food banks things that belong to all of us to show how much we care about hunger? We can use natural resources that are already growing on our trees to help those in need.

Leading By Example

The great thing about coconuts from public parks is that they do not need to be imported to the state. They are already growing on our islands.

By donating these coconuts, our communities would be leading by example and showing the next generation what is important to us.

Children in schools are constantly learning about sustainability in programs nationwide. And, we could show them that it’s not just about learning. Instead, it’s more about doing. So, let’s take the initiative and make the difference.

The funny thing is that adults are always telling children that we are going to need to find ways to make our communities more sustainable in the future. But, we need these adults to take responsibility and do more for our future now. This would be a good start.

Nathan Serota from Honolulu Department of Parks and Recreation explained to me that the coconut trees are used for their shade and other benefits, and not for their fruit. So, we really wouldn’t be losing anything to make this happen.

Right now, there are no policies in place that require the landscaping companies that are contracted to trim the coconut trees in city and county parks to collect, process, and donate coconuts to families in need.

However, Hawaii Foodbank and Hawaii Homeless Healthcare Hui told me that they would be willing to accept edible coconuts if they were sorted and donated to them. And, the Honolulu Department of Parks and Recreation said that there would not be any issues with them supporting such a program so long as the city, county, and state government put policies in place to force contractors to do so.

We just need our local politicians to make that happen. At the end of the day, there are so many reasons why we should save and donate the coconuts to food banks rather than turning them into mulch.

Our local politicians need to make this happen.

So, I ask for your help to raise awareness about this opportunity to do something more with our parks.

Let’s change the current situation to make it a better one. If we can collect and donate the coconuts in the city parks to food banks, we can help to lower the risk of the possibility that some families will not have enough food on their tables.

And, we can reflect the Hawaiian values of responsibility (kuleana), helpfulness (kokua), and taking of the land (malama i ka aina) that Congressman Ed Case talked about in Washington recently.

In the meantime, I beg you to provide any donations that you can, including personal items or food, to your local food bank.

Editor’s note: This Community Voices was written for the author’s Silver Award Project for the Girl Scouts of Hawaii.

Community Voices aims to encourage broad discussion on many topics of community interest. It’s kind of a cross between Letters to the Editor and op-eds. This is your space to talk about important issues or interesting people who are making a difference in our world. Column lengths should be no more than 800 words and we need a photo of the author and a bio. We welcome video commentary and other multimedia formats. Send to news@civilbeat.org. The opinions and information expressed in Community Voices are solely those of the authors and not Civil Beat.


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About the Author

Ari Walsh

Ari Walsh is a middle school student in Honolulu. She is a member of the Girl Scouts of Hawaii and the Aloha Council Boy Scouts of America.


Latest Comments (0)

I agree with the article. Planting less decorative tree, but more fruit trees.  A lot of potential fruits had been wasted in Hawaii which has the perfect weather to grow  all kind of fruits. Stops worry about the small animal that will come with it. We just have to deal with them like other problems.  Why  don't train the crews to  pick the  young coconut for fresh juice and jelly-like coconut meat.  Learn how to do the coconut palm sugar, coconut milk for cooking.etc.  Let's plant the fruit trees  all over the island!

Kamolthip · 1 week ago

Most Pacific Islands I have visited and worked in do not trim their Coconut trees. They use them for food, drink and shelter as the writer suggests. People are smart enough not to sit under ripe trees ! Itʻs called Native Intelligence. Thereʻs already a local group called Niu Now thatʻs promoting this "idea who's time has come" .

boots · 1 week ago

Good idea, long overdue!  Plus, the Parks Dept. could plant a lot more fruit trees.

regina · 1 week ago

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