Foodland donated boxes of packaged meals. The Hilton Hawaiian Village sent 25 pallets of meat, fish and produce. Moku Kitchen and Nico’s Pier 38 donated more fish. Maui Nui Venison sent more than 500 pounds of deer meat.
The shuttering of restaurant dining rooms came upon many restaurants and caterers suddenly, when their pantries were full of fresh food.
Aloha Harvest, a nonprofit with a long track record of “rescuing” unused food and getting it to the needy, was suddenly awash in donations. Not that it couldn’t use the food. The group delivers to more than 175 social service agencies; the bounty kept drivers working overtime on rescue and distribution.
In stepped the Chef Hui, a network of food industry professionals, which worked to create a distribution hub, sorting and storing the food at the Pacific Gateway Center. The hui also helped get food to organizations such as the Hawaii Foodbank, Salvation Army, Lanakila Pacific, Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center, KEY Project and Kupu culinary program.
That was Phase 1. Now, as donations level off but need continues to grow, the partners have entered Phase 2.
Amanda Corby Noguchi of the Pili Group, which runs the Chef Hui, said the object now is to keep donations coming and to help local farmers by finding money to pay them for their crops. It will help community groups with distribution, food storage, organization and whatever is needed to get the food where it needs to go.
“Our vision has shifted to be a resource to help fill in the gaps,” she said.
The Chef Hui program started about two years ago and had about 30 members. Before the pandemic, projects included bolstering markets for sustainable seafood and locally grown breadfruit.
More than 100 people are now involved, including out-of-work cooks who want to spend their downtime being of service.
And that led to another development: Starting Tuesday, chefs will cook in the Gateway Center’s commercial kitchens, producing meals for community groups that will pass them on to needy families, seniors and schoolchildren.
Chef Mark Noguchi, Amanda’s husband and her partner in the Pili Group, said the cooking will continue twice weekly. Chefs Paul Matsumoto of Alan Wong’s and Chris Kajioka of Senia will be among the first to help. Aloha Harvest will continue to help with deliveries.
“We got a pretty crack team ready to go,” he said.
The Chef Hui and Aloha Harvest continue to request donations of food, cash and supplies, such as foil pans and to-go containers. There is also a need for refrigerator and freezer space to hold donated items, and commercial kitchens to prepare food.
“We are working to connect partners together who either have a need or an excess of something to share,” Mark Noguchi said. “We’re all in this together.”