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by Natalie Rooks, staff writer

Only blocks away from HPU’s campus is Honolulu’s Chinatown, full of authentic Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese, Korean, Filipino, and Chinese restaurants, lei shops, as well as open meat, produce, and seafood markets. People are known to flock to the popular downtown bars in the evenings, but daytime is also a whirlwind of activity in the food markets.

The open markets of Mauna Kea Marketplace, O‘ahu Market, Kekaulike Market, and the Chinese Cultural Plaza have separate vendors selling fresh vegetables, fruits, meats, and live seafood. Often the produce prices are relatively inexpensive. Customers walk along the streets and can examine and smell the mangoes, papaya, pineapples, and tomatoes before finding the vendor with the best prices and produce.

One group of customers that you won’t see here are HPU students.
In an informal survey of HPU students, students ranked their grocery shopping habits based on location, cost, and quality of foods, respectively. The majority of students shop at Safeway, Foodland, and Costco. Among those who said they shop at different stores for different things, Safeway was the favorite for produce.

“ It has the freshest stuff,” said Allison Stoll, an HPU student.

“ [Safeway] reminds me of the stores back home in California,” said Lloyd Luna, an HPU student. However, he plans on going shopping in Chinatown in the future, to “see the cultural differences.”
Depending on the season, fruits and vegetables may be cheaper in Chinatown. On a given day, depending on the vendor, the difference is shown in the chart the left:

The different shopkeepers may even lower their prices by one or two pennies to remain competitive among each other.

There’s a lot of competition among the vendors, said Kit Tsoi, owner of 368 Mini Market on Mauna Kea Street. “Older people are looking for one penny, two penny differences, and will go to all the shops.”

Tsoi says he hasn’t seen many HPU students shopping in Chinatown.

“ I don’t think the students have time…,” said Tsoi. “I see a couple [students],” Tsoi said, “but not that many. One month they might buy rice, but then you don’t see them for another month,” he added. “Chinatown is mostly for the older people that live in the area.”

Stoll said that location is a main reason why she shops at Safeway. She lives in Kane‘ohe, and her main choices are Safeway and Times.

Location is also important to Leeza Holguin, a student who shops in Chinatown about once a month.
“ The fruit is cheap,” said Holguin.

Chinatown is only a few blocks away from HPU’s downtown campus, and regardless of whether students are taking advantage of this rich, cultural community in Honolulu, many enjoy the benefits of its fresh food and low cost.


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