Aloha present: Hawaii is constructing a brand new meals community, offering meals bins and making ready meals for households in want on Oahu
Warm meals for senior citizens at home, lunches for children cut off from their school cafeterias, grocery boxes for families in need.
Just days after the world was turned upside down, Hawaii forged a new food chain born of need and sustained for weeks by a community ready to be of service.
At the front end were a few savvy organizers who brought together huge networks of donors, delivery services, and suddenly unemployed restaurant workers who happily returned to the kitchen, often without pay. Not to mention hundreds of volunteers sorting products, packing boxes, and more.
All of this came together among groups large and small, working separately, with no general direction and little government involvement. If there is lessons to be learned from the coronavirus pandemic, some of us, if motivated, can move at the speed of light.
“It developed in 24 hours,” said Mike Gangloff, co-founder of the show Aloha Challenge, one of the earliest and largest groups in the grocery chain.
Show Aloha’s model is to give restaurants a grant to produce meals for delivery to Kupuna that cannot or should not go out. The program started with $ 50,000 in seed capital, primarily from Gangloff’s MIRA Image Construction Co.
In a week, Gangloff said, 10 mostly small restaurants were up and running, cooking 60 meals a day. “With that initial investment, we made 600 meals a day for 10 days.”
Show Aloha has raised more than $ 900,000 since then and serves 1,400 meals a day, he said. More than 40 restaurants have taken a turn.
The campaign also attracts donations of fresh groceries and dry goods, some of which go to restaurants to cover costs and some in grocery boxes – 2,000 were handed out at a drive-through event last month, and an additional £ 250,000 went for a June 2nd giveaway deployed at Aloha Stadium.
Gangloff’s partner, broadcaster Lanai Tabura, said part of the reason the group moved so fast was because they locked up corporate donors early on. Many of them have typically raised money for charitable causes but have not yet been approached for coronavirus-related relief, Tabura said. “It put us on the top of the list because it was an emergency.”
Campaigns have been run across the state for people in need, some as small as a single restaurant, setting aside a few dollars from each sale to prepare meals for frontline medical professionals.
Larger nonprofits have organized services for specific groups, such as the Hawaii Food & Wine Festival’s efforts to help the unemployed in the food industry.
The donor-restaurant-recipient model is among the most visible and is seen as a way to support struggling restaurants while serving recipients from Keiki to Kupuna.
Elena’s restaurant in Waipahu prepares 60 meals a day for 50 days for Show Aloha, with the exception of a 10-day period when the kitchen made 120 meals a day. “That was a little crazy,” said co-owner Mellissa Cedillo.
But the $ 8 per meal scholarship at the start of the pandemic meant everything to her bottom line, Cedillo said. It has boosted the revenue from the restaurant and its food truck so she could keep all of her staff. “If we only have this extra income every day, we are 100%.”
Chef Hui, led by the husband-and-wife team of Mark Noguchi and Amanda Corby Noguchi, recently launched the Give and Go Community Meal program, which also offers restaurant grants to prepare daily meals for community groups across the island .
With some guaranteed income, Corby Noguchi said, the hope is that the restaurants can stay open and pay their employees and suppliers. “It’s like a three-fold bottom line. It supports farmers, restaurants and feeds the people. “
The Give and Go program is funded by donations of nearly $ 100,000 and runs through at least May.
Chef Lee Anne Wong signed up as soon as her Kaimuki restaurant, the Koko Head Cafe, reopened for takeout. I called Mark and said, ‘I have bodies. Let’s help, ‘”said Wong. Your staff will prepare 25 family-style meals for four people twice a week.
“We love and appreciate this opportunity.”
Give and Go is just the latest in Chef Hui’s efforts. The group has chefs who work in five kitchens around Oahu – Pacific Gateway Center, Kona Brewing Co., Waipahu High School, Open Kitchen Oahu, and Cakeworks – and prepare meals that are anywhere they are needed. Kona Brewing Co., for example, made more than 200 gallons of soup and stew in April.
Within days of the declaration of the pandemic, the group mobilized to organize restaurant scraps in food boxes for families. This evolved into a Feed the People initiative with the non-profit food distribution company Aloha Harvest. Feed the People makes an important contribution to weekly food trips at four locations and supplies 150 to 300 families per location.
With the help of a number of distributors and other corporate donors providing food and labor, the Hui has served more than 40,000 of these chef-prepared meals and made bags that also contain local beef or venison, eggs and milk. Corby Noguchi said.
Collaboration is key to these campaigns and makes every day a juggling act for the central organizers.
“I haven’t worked in two months and it seems like I now have three unpaid jobs,” Tabura said of his show aloha duties. Chief among them: “I am like a professional beggar.”
The group has the funds to keep going through mid-June, Tabura said, so he’s looking for more.
Show off Aloha partners with Hawaii Meals on Wheels to identify customers, accept donations, and send checks to the restaurants that prepare the meals. Delivery is primarily through the St. Francis Healthcare System in Hawaii.
Michelle Cordero-Lee, CEO of Meals on Wheels, said the group has switched from 400 customers a day to over 1,000 with an average age of 86.
On the Aloha show, Gangloff and Tabura did what their organization could never have done on their own. “They used their relationships to shake trees for us,” said Cordero-Lee.
“Lanai and Mike and their group of private companies saw food insecurity as the biggest problem we would face in this health crisis.”
When the economy opens up again and people are able to move again, needs could shift, but no one involved in these programs believes the job will be done.
“We have to develop the program and still give the food to those in need,” said Mark Noguchi.
For his part, Cedillo would like to include Elena, even if she goes forward alone. “I’ve always wanted a platform to feed the kupuna and now that we have the experience and know we can handle it, we can keep doing it.”
Tabura defines work as “soul-defining” and not as something he will easily give up.
On Mother’s Day, he went on some deliveries himself to give bouquets of flowers to older mothers. What he thought was a small gesture brought many women to tears, he said. “I could only build five houses. I was an emotional wreck. “
HOW TO HELP
To donate money, food, or buy a charity t-shirt:
>> Show Aloha Challenge: Go to show alohachallenge.com or call 356-2994.
>> Chef Hui: Go to Chef hui.com. To enter as a restaurant, send an email to [email protected]