Thursday mornings are particularly busy—and rewarding—for the University of Hawaiʻi Maui College’s culinary arts program purchasing class. Instructor Natasha Joslin and her seven students, along with some campus and community volunteers, pack up 200 boxes of local produce that are distributed later in the day to UH Maui College students and community members affected by the August wildfires.
The boxed are filled with a variety of produce including: cabbage, sweet potatoes, bok choy, onions, eggplant, kale, bananas, tangerines and more.
“The folks who get the boxes are filled with so much gratitude and joy, they are overwhelmed with aloha,” said Lily Weber, a culinary arts student. “It’s a beautiful sight to see!”
For two months after the fires, the culinary arts program’s Pāʻina Building was a food preparation hub where a total of 200,000 meals were prepped, cooked and sent out for delivery for members of the community who had been displaced by fires.
“We felt as though we wanted to continue providing something to the community, and we also knew the culinary arts program team needed to get back to their curriculum,” said Laura Lees Nagle, dean of career and technical education. “In discussions with Common Ground Collective (a nonprofit that promotes food security, educational and economic opportunities in Maui County), the produce boxes project seemed like an easy next step. Matson had already generously donated their refrigerated container for our use for a few weeks of meal prep and they instantly told us we could continue to use it until the end of the year.”
The project is supported by Common Ground Collective and the UH Foundation Feed Maui Fund. The Lion’s Club of Maui is also providing bags of rice.
“It’s a project that definitely falls in line with purchasing and inventory,” said Joslin. “In addition to helping to continue to feed the community, we are able to support our local farmers, many of whom lost business as a result of the fires.”
It’s anticipated that the produce box project will continue through at least the end of the fall 2023 semester.
“I feel so blessed to be able to give back to my community,” Weber said. “I love to see our college and local farmers come together to give back in any way we can. I love being able to be a part of the great work.”