A group of Oahu restaurateurs big and small have banned together to form a program that will deliver free meals to residents of lower income senior housing facilities on Oahu during the crisis caused by the COVID-19 outbreak.
Mayor Kirk Caldwell, Aloha Beer owner Steve Sombrero and several restaurant operators announced the establishment of the Malama Meals COVID-19 Community Meal Program program at a press conference at Fisherman’s Wharf in Kakaako today.
The program is slated to begin Saturday. The initial group of senior housing facilities includes Whitmore Circle Apartments, Kumuwai, Manoa Gardens, Na Lei Hulu Kupuna, Franciscan Vistas Ewa Beach and West Loch Elderly Village.
The coalition is self-funded but is looking for grants from local foundations and donors to support the effort.
The program is the brainchild of Ahmad Ramadan and Ako Kifuji, the couple that owns Da Spot Health Food and Juices who approached Sombrero about the idea.
Sombrero said many food establishments and businesses are complying with Caldwell’s order to stop dine-in food service effective this morning.
“We complied with your order, shut down our business, sent our employees home and we have a lot of inventory left in our facilities,” Sombrero said.
Many seniors are locked down right now as a result of the outbreak. “While the rest of the world is lining up at the stores to buy toilet paper, they’re locked down so have no of coming out and getting the food that they need.”
Sombrero added: “We’re going to be reaching out the community, to all of the businesses to partner with us because this is a very serious problem we’re trying to solve,” Sombrero. “We shouldn’t be running from the problem, we should be running toward it and helping the most weakest members of our community and these are the senior citizens.”
Ramadan agreed. “We have an excess of (food) and no ability to push it out,” he said.
At least some of the food will be prepared and cooked out of Da Spot’s central kitchen at the University of Hawaii-West Oahu and sponsors with food trucks will make the deliveries to the seniors, Ramadan said.
The program is being coordinated by the city Department of Community Services.
Besides Aloha Beer and Da Spot, coalition partners include Applebee’s, IHOP and Olive Garden restaurants, Blue Water Shrimp and Aloha Venues.
Those in need can also request meals online at Malama Meals website, malamameals.org.