Eating To Feed The Hungry

Jo McGarry
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Wednesday - March 21, 2007
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(from left) Hawaii Foodbank president Dick Grimm and director of fund development Polly Kauahi, Hiroshi Fukui of Hiroshi Eurasion Tapas, and Chuck Furuya, Great Chefs Fight Hunger co-organizer
(from left) Hawaii Foodbank president Dick Grimm and
director of fund development Polly Kauahi, Hiroshi Fukui
of Hiroshi Eurasion Tapas, and Chuck Furuya, Great
Chefs Fight Hunger co-organizer

Last year’s Hawaii Foodbank fundraiser was the victim of our spring deluge, and chefs who gathered together on the lawn at Restaurant Row ended up fighting rain, cold and fierce winds in their attempt to fight hunger.

“We couldn’t take the chance of being rained out again,” says event co-organizer Chuck Furuya, “so we’re moving to the Foodbank warehouse this year.”

As it turns out, the location is probably ideal, and not just because it has a roof.

“We figure this is a great way to let hundreds of people actually see the Foodbank, check out the warehouse, see what the Foodbank does - and then they’ll know where to come back to drop off their donations of food,” says Furuya with a smile.

Guests at the high-profile foodie event this coming Saturday will find it hard to ignore the towering boxes of dried saimin, Spam, rice, canned tuna and jars of peanut butter that line the warehouse walls.

“We send out 35,000 pounds of food a day from here to feed the hungry,” says Hawaii Foodbank president, Dick Grimm. “That’s to feed about 130,000 people a year.”

Grimm has seen a lot of changes in the way the Foodbank works in these past few years.

“One of the biggest changes is that we see more people today who are both homeless and hungry. High rents have made more of our clients homeless too.”

And homeless people have quite different food needs than those with refrigerators and stoves.

“We can’t distribute frozen foods to someone with no home,” says Grimm. “They’d be spending all of their money on ice to try and keep it cold.”

So canned protein remains the No. 1 item of choice on the Foodbank wish list.

“Canned protein, like tuna and meats, are extremely expensive and hard to get,” says Grimm. “They are valuable donations.”

AIG Hawaii is the main event sponsor for the Great Chefs Fight Hunger event, and the Foodbank also has good commercial relationships that help them reach the public throughout the year.

“Ruby Tuesday’s is a permanent collection point for donations,” says Grimm, “and Jamba Juice helps us tremendously during the holiday season.”

Great Chefs Fight Hunger is one of those win-win situations. Organizers are hoping that 500 people will show up March 24, eager to sample the food of 16 of Hawaii’s best chefs and enjoy live music, wines, beers and a martini bar.

And for foodies interested in meeting some of the “underground” culinary stars of the city, look for Betty Pang of Chinatown’s Green Door.

“There’s a funny story about Betty,” says Furuya of the tiny “mom-and-mom” restaurant. “D.K. (Kodama) and I went to see her to ask her to participate, and she obviously didn’t trust us - she had to ask around and see if we were legit before she agreed to do the event!”

Lucky those guys have a good reputation.

Participating restaurants at the March 24 event include Roy’s, Alan Wong’s, Chai’s Island Bistro, Hiroshi Eurasion Tapas, Halekulani, Kahala Hotel, Olive Tree, OnJin’s Café, 12th Avenue Grill, Sam Choy’s, d.k’s Steak House, Sansei Seafood Restaurant and Sushi Bar, 12th Avenue Grill, Pacific Club, Green Door and Ihilani.

Tickets are $85, or for $110 you get to start eating an hour before everyone else.

For more information, call 836-3600.

Happy eating!

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