– Kahiau Together Program supports Hawai`i community – birthplace of IRONMAN and home of annual IRONMAN World Championship – through aid station drive-through food distribution
– Over 35,000 meals served through 14 Kahiau Together distribution events to date
As the pandemic roared on in 2020, the impact on the Island of Hawai`i became clear as hotels closed, restaurants and shops were shuttered, and the very volunteers who help make the iconic IRONMAN® World Championship® happen became one of the hardest hit. Under the leadership of Diana Bertsch, Senior Vice President, World Championship Events for The IRONMAN Group, her local IRONMAN Hawai`i team was inspired to take action, creating Kahiau Together, an aid station and drive-through food distribution effort to feed as many members of the community as possible. The mission of the program is built from the Hawaiian word Kahiau, meaning to give generously or lavishly from the heart while not expecting anything in return.
In support of the IRONMAN Hawai`i team’s mission, the IRONMAN Foundation pledged $1 million to help feed the Island of Hawai`i community, home of the IRONMAN World Championship, through Kahiau Together’s local food distribution program. The Kahiau Together Aid Station drive-through events, which first began last July, continue to distribute over 600 food bundles of locally sourced fresh proteins, fruits, vegetables, and starches. To date, over 35,000 meals have been served through 14 distribution events.
“With the devastating impact the COVID-19 pandemic has caused around the globe and locally in Hawai`i, all of us at IRONMAN are reminded of the importance of taking care of our `ohana when times are tough,” said Diana Bertsch, Senior Vice President, World Championship Events for The IRONMAN Group. “The people of Hawai`i are resilient and we want our `ohana locally to know we are still here to support the community through Kahiau Together. With this program, we will be distributing food sourced from local producers every month, doing what is right, sharing with others. Not only is our community being fed, our local farmers, fishermen and ranchers are benefitting too. We will all endure the impacts of the pandemic together, as well as take a step back to reflect and be grateful for what we have, and how we are able to lift others up during challenging times.”
The IRONMAN team understands that collaboration and partnerships are key factors to achieving success. Mahea Akau, IRONMAN World Championship Event Manager, quickly took up the task of putting the Kahiau Together program together, forming a team of partners and resources.
One of the many local vendor partnerships include Pā’ina by Ocean, a farmer’s market-type platform designed to support the local culinary and agricultural communities. Pā’ina by Ocean was created by Ocean Kanekoa, a freshman at Honokaa High School, and his father Jayson Kanekoa, the Executive Chef at the Waikoloa Marriot. For over a year now, Pā’ina by Ocean has been bringing farmers and ranchers together to help distribute local food to communities in need.
“With partnerships like Kahiau Together, we are helping our island’s farmers, ranchers and fishermen. Our local hotels and restaurants used to buy locally, but when COVID-19 hit, our local producers had nowhere to turn,” said Ocean Kanekoa, founder of Pā’ina by Ocean. “Programs like IRONMAN Foundation’s Kahiau Together, well it helps everyone.”
For January’s Kahiau Together efforts, food boxes included ground beef from Double D Ranch in Laupahoehoe, Hawai`i, Hilo’s Tomori’s Tofu Factory, chicken thighs from Suisan Company, Big Island Flava sausage mix, Alii Mushrooms and an assortment of mixed greens and kale from Mother Nature’s Miracle Farm located on the Hamakua Coast.
“This was our first Kahiau Together distribution for 2021, and we are focused on Kumukahi, which means a new beginning,” said Mahea Akau, IRONMAN World Championship Event Manager. “I want our community to know we are here to support and help them.”
Kahiau Together not only distributes local food bundles, but also assists local nonprofit organizations with grants to help with critical funding to fill food banks, meet ongoing food insecurity needs, and provide long-term support for the Hawai’i Island community. Kahiau Together Grant applications are available to local nonprofit organizations to specifically support hunger relief on the Island of Hawai`i. Health and food supply related organizations with COVID-19 response programs are encouraged to apply to the grant funding by visiting here.
The next Kahiau Together event will take place on February 15 from 10 a.m. to noon HST at Kona International Marketplace.