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Windward groups join forces to feed neighbors affected by COVID-19

Grassroots community groups in Waimanalo and Hauula began feeding their neighbors even before the Windward Food Hui was formed in late March, and now those groups are among over a dozen hui partners providing 800 to 1,200 meals every weekday at several locations along the coast.

These small “aina-based” groups knew the needs of their communities better than any large organization or government agency could, and jump-started efforts, says hui coordinator Georgianna Decosta, Windward program officer of the Harold K.L. Castle Foundation.

Everyone involved on multiple levels has interwoven their efforts against hunger to form a safety net for the Windward coast. “Many hands make light work,” she said.

The hui’s focus is on feeding adults, supplementing the Department of Education’s drive-thru lunches for youngsters. Food is donated by a variety of sources, turned into meals by different chefs, and transported by Aloha Harvest and Ham Produce and Seafood, which also provide food.

Decosta puts in a lot of extra time organizing the hui on behalf of the Castle Foundation — the need is personal to her.

Born and raised in the area, which has one of the island’s largest populations of low-income residents, Decosta has been homeless and on welfare, and her heart breaks over the growing numbers of unemployed. She knows what it it feels like to be a single mom, she added, “trying to feed your kids, and scared.”

But she’s worried most about those who have never before had to struggle, and now — suddenly finding themselves without paychecks — are burying themselves in credit card debt. “Are they aware of the resources and able to access them without shame?”

The youth-oriented KEY Project, which serves the area from Kaneohe to Kahuku, is one of the larger partners in the hui. The Kaha­luu site provides about 400 daily meals, prepared by Kupu Hawaii’s youth culinary arts program, according to Aulii Dudoit, KEY’s executive director. Food is donated by Chef Hui, Aloha Harvest and other sources.

KEY also has an emergency food pantry accessed by about 100 families daily, holds a Hawaii Foodbank event twice a month that draws 200 families at a time, and serves a drive-thru breakfast to nearly 200 seniors on Fridays.

Other grassroots partners of the Windward hui include Ke Kula Nui o Waimanalo and Hui Malama o Ke Kai, which help distribute 400 meals in Waimanalo; and Hui o Hauula, which distributes 105 meals and monthly produce boxes at the Hauula Community Center. The Hauula group also will arrange home delivery for recipients, said its coordinator, Dotty Kelly-Paddock. Food is provided by partners such as Liliuokalani Trust, Kupu Hawaii and the KEY Project.

Decosta said the hui will phase out hot lunches by June and instead provide boxed meals and produce, to better serve homebound kupuna and others who find it difficult to pick up lunches.

WINDWARD FOOD HUI

>> KEY Project: 47-200 Waihee Road; 239-5777

>> Hauula Community Center: 54-010 Kukuna Road; 255-6944

>> Waimanalo site: At the beach park; call 499-5055

>> To register: Go to habilitat.com/food hui; a calendar of food distributions is posted there

Correction: Phone number for Waimanalo site was fixed. It was incorrect in an earlier version of this story.

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