On Saturday, Dec. 9, 2023, Berkeley High School hosted the Holiday Meal. The event’s goal was to help provide a free meal to people experiencing homelessness during the holidays. It was primarily organized by Kainoa Tomikawa, a BHS senior who holds the position of Chief of Service. The Chief of Service helps organize other events such as street meals, where they cook on Telegraph Avenue for the community, or environmental cleanups.
The Holiday Meal is much larger than other organized events, such as street meals, and aims to feed around 200 to 400 people rather than 100 or less. Tomikawa had a committee of five other members who helped to organize the event.
Amelie Shears, who is on the committee, said, “I can buy one homeless person food, but that’s not (enough) to cure homelessness everywhere. It’s nice I can do something bigger to help (more) people.”
The last Holiday Meal happened in 2019. During previous years, the volunteer sign-up had been full within the first couple of days, and many people knew about it. Often, people would volunteer all four years of school. However, due to COVID-19, it hasn’t happened for the last three years. Last year, the Holiday Meal was canceled due to a miscommunication. This was the first time the event has been successfully put on in four years.
Before the event, Kainoa Tomikawa said they had about 90 volunteers and continued by saying, “We are a little bit short on volunteers because no one really knows about it.”
The committee presented to classes to get students involved. The efforts helped them double their volunteer participation.
“We’re not good on (the number of) volunteers, but we have enough to put on the event,” Tomikawa said.
The school was also asking for canned food, clothing, and toiletries as donations in bins at the front of the school. Mr. V and other administrators helped by sending school-wide emails asking for volunteers and donations. Tomikawa said, “It’s a big time where the community can come together.”
To spread the word about the event, organizers put up flyers near homeless communities and at soup kitchens, which then spread by word of mouth. Attendees entered through the glass doors into the cafeteria. BHS students played live music, and the bins of donations and clothing were set up in the middle, along with festive decorations. The students make all of the food with only a couple of adults in the kitchen. The menu included mac and cheese, ham, green beans, and a dessert table. Volunteers then served it to attendees sitting at tables.
“I am happy this event has been put on because sometimes it is hard to get a meal,” said Robert McCullough, who attended the event. “I am very proud that you guys do what you do because I’m from a different state, and they don’t look out for the homeless.”
Brandon Thompson, another attendee, said, “It’s been very welcoming, very loving, and (a) very kind (environment).”