Thousands of pounds of fresh produce and bread have been distributed to hungry students at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, because of the commitment of one very passionate student.
Raiyan Rafid, who will graduate from UH Mānoa in December 2022 with a master’s degree in finance, has given up almost all of his Saturdays since October 2021 to collect fresh produce and bread from farmer’s markets to supplement Food Vault Hawaiʻi’s pantry in conjunction with Aloha Harvest.
“I know firsthand how students on a budget often don’t get to buy fresh produce and bread because of the high price,” said Rafid. “I was motivated to help because I knew that I could help create a bridge between those who want to donate and those in need.”
During the past year, Rafid’s efforts have provided more than 5,000 pounds of fresh produce and bread for UH Mānoa students.
“There are generous vendors at Kapiʻolani Community College and Kakaʻako Farmer’s Market who are willing to donate leftover bread and produce for our students in need,” said Rafid. “It was easy for me to give up my Saturdays to pick up donations because it meant on Mondays that students would have fresh produce and bread.”
Rafid has been working with the UH Mānoa Office of Student Life and Development since October 2021. He originally came to Hawaiʻi as an international student from Bangladesh in 2015. Since then, Rafid has earned an associate degree from Kapiʻolani CC (2018) and a bachelor of arts in psychology from UH Mānoa (2020).
Serving students, center of Rafid’s college life
Serving in student organizations has been the center of Rafid’s college life. This has included his role as president of the UH Mānoa Campus Center Board, treasurer of the UH Student Caucus, and vice president of the Associated Students of University of Hawaiʻi (ASUH), which included initiating the ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi Initiative, a free Hawaiian language curriculum open to the public at UH Mānoa in 2020.
- Related UH News story: ASUH offers free ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi classes at UH Mānoa, January 10, 2020
Being in ASUH, Rafid knew about Food Vault Hawaiʻi and volunteered at a food drop in 2019. Food Vault Hawaiʻi is a free service available for students without reliable access to affordable food. All registered UH Mānoa students with a valid student ID can access the food vault. Aloha Harvest is a food recovery non-profit and Food Vault Hawaiʻi is one of their receiving agencies.
“When I started graduate school, I learned that Food Vault Hawaiʻi needed help,” Rafid said. “Knowing the impact Food Vault Hawaiʻi makes towards students in need, I immediately accepted the opportunity to help.”
For the first seven months, Rafid used his own car to collect fresh bread and produce around Honolulu. Eventually Food Vault Hawaiʻi moved to using a UH van to collect donations.
Multiple students have joined Rafid to help keep Food Vault Hawaiʻi operating. However, produce and bread are two of the most popular items in the pantry. Every Monday, 20–30 students wait for up to an hour before Food Vault Hawaiʻi opens to get access to the produce and bread.
“We celebrate Raiyan’s graduation but we will miss him,” said Bonnyjean Manini, director of Student Life and Development at UH Mānoa who also runs Food Vault Hawaiʻi. “His shoes will not be easy to fill.”
After graduation, Rafid plans to find a job that relates to his finance degree and possibly work as a financial analyst.
- Read more about other UH Mānoa graduates:
PhD grad goes from directing commencement to walking in same ceremony, December 20, 2022
Student speaker encourages graduates to embrace challenges, December 13, 2022
Fall 2022 graduate personalized degree, discovered passion at Mānoa, December 13, 2022
Public health grads discover passions, strengthen local workforce, December 12, 2022