KAANAPALI (HawaiiNewsNow) – The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency and the American Red Cross will soon start cutting back free meals they serve to fire survivors living in hotels.

Right now, they are serving three meals a day.

However, starting on Monday, the program will transition to one meal a day.

Some survivors say it is a major blow and food is still very much needed.

Maui Wildfires Disaster

“Unfortunately, it’s another big hit for Lahaina,” said Shannon Iʻi. “I feel like Lahaina continues to just get pushed aside. Meals are like one of the most important things that we need.”

Iʻi lost her home in the fire.

She and her family are now scattered across various hotels and condominiums around the island.

She says having meals together is an important part of the healing process.

“You go through the buffet line, and you sit down, and you get to have a meal with your community,” Iʻi said.

“It’s not just about the food, it’s about that social interaction with one another. It’s that shared experience on what we’re going through.”

State officials said HI-EMA and the American Red Cross served nearly 1.5 million meals since the fires.

“Food distribution and availability has returned to the affected areas in Maui County,” said HI-EMA Administrator James Barros.

Iʻi said she is greatly disappointed.

“Not all of us can afford to go out and spend money,” she said. “Some of us don’t have transportation to go to different locations.”

Immediately following the fires, a community of chefs, volunteers and non-profits came together for this very reason.

“I got a call from Nick Winfrey, who’s executive Director of Maui United Way, on August 9th, the morning of August 9th and he said, ‘We got to feed a lot of people really fast. What can we do?’” said Jennifer Karaca, founding executive director for Common Ground Collective.

It didn’t take long for them to partner with the University of Hawaii Maui College to use its kitchen and distribute meals to the masses.

“We were making upwards of eight to 10,000 meals per day,” Karaca said.

Eventually, HI-EMA and the American Red Cross took over and organized a feeding program.

More than eight months since the fires, both Iʻi and Karaca say survivors’ need for food still exists.

“Food is a big part of recovering from trauma and just maintaining a happy, healthy life. We’re really nervous about this. There’s already been an increase in demand from the community at the hubs,” Karaca said.

The American Red Cross said it will ensure their clients have their nutritional needs met and will connect them with resources if needed.

“The American Red Cross Shelter Resident Transition teams will proactively ensure client households have their nutritional needs met during regular check-in conversations. The Red Cross stands by to connect households with additional feeding resources on a case-by-case basis,” said Mary Simkins, of the Red Cross.

Karaca says the nonprofits are willing to fill that gap, but they don’t have the money.

“We’ve made some suggestions about them reconsidering, providing meals until people were placed into homes with kitchens, or to set up kitchen stations at the hotel so people can at least be able to cook for themselves,” she said.

She said the best way to help is to directly donate to them. If you would like to do so, click here.


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