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Coming together to Feed those Affected by the Maui Fires

People wearing aprons and smiling at the camera

September 02, 2023 - On August 9, 2023, thousands of people on Maui found themselves without the basic elements of survival: shelter, food, water. The human need was immediate, and it was huge. To meet that need, Common Ground Collective, a nonprofit dedicated to increasing food security on Maui, partnered with the University of Hawaiʻi Maui College and Chef Hui to prepare much-needed meals for those affected by the fires.

Together they cooked between 8,000 to 10,000 meals a day, which were then distributed in shelters and impacted neighborhoods. As of August 25, 2023, 92,000 meals had been produced with the support of a grant from the Maui Strong Fund.

Many local farmers donated produce, and local chefs also volunteered their time, including Sheldon Simeon of Tin Roof in Kahului and Tiffany’s in Wailuku; Lee Anne Wong of Koko Head Café in Honolulu and Papaʻaina Maui in Lahaina; Taylor Ponte of The Mill House in Waikapū, and Craig Omori, chef instructor at the University of Hawaiʻi Maui in Kahului.

“We have a lot of local chefs helping, and some of them actually lost their own restaurants,” says Jennifer Karaca, executive director of Common Ground Collective. “They’ve been here cooking, even though they’ve experienced tremendous loss of their own. … Everyone is still showing up, putting so much work and heart and energy into the community. That’s what gives me hope, because I know we’re all going to work together to make sure we see this through.”

In all, Common Ground Collective helped purchase and procure over 100,000 pounds of locally grown produce and proteins to support local producers. It has since transitioned to supporting meal distribution efforts in Wailea, Olowalu, and other community hubs such as Pōhaku Park and Nāpili Park. It’s also working with the county and state to help create long-term feeding and food systems plans.

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