State lockdowns and rising unemployment rates have cooked up quite the opportunity for well-known chefs, who chose to give back to the community during the COVID-19 pandemic. Chefs, like Mark Noguchi, stepped up to help millions of people who have fallen victim to the economic crisis that followed the pandemic.
“During these difficult times, being of service has been a true gift for all of us,” local chef Mark Noguchi said. “There are many things happening that are out of our control in the world, so being able to collaborate with like-minded people to show up and be of service to those in need have kept our entire team positive and focused on solutions instead of struggles.”
He and his wife partnered with local farmers and restaurant owners to give food to the hungry. Their nonprofit, Chef Hui, had been around for three years. But when the pandemic began, the group went into full force, serving more than 5 thousand meals per week.
“Seeing the smiling faces of the people we are serving and hearing so much awesome feedback from the communities brings us joy and motivates us to continue doing this community work,” Noguchi said.
Chef Hui has several satellite kitchens for preparing meals. Their program, Give and Go Community Meal, pays restaurants a stipend to prepare and deliver meals free of charge to those in need, while another program called Feed the People sources local ingredients to create produce boxes. The boxes include enough fresh ingredients for a family of four to six people.
In addition to meals, Chef Hui educates people through virtual cooking classes. There are also recipes within each produce box for customers to follow. This helps families who are wanting to cook or learn to cook with their families. The ingredients are used to make family dishes that people would have never had a chance to make.
“We’ve been able to keep restaurants in business by hiring them to make community meals,” Noguchi said. “Through these efforts, we’ve fed hundreds of thousands of individuals and have moved nearly 2 million pounds of food to communities in need. That feels pretty awesome. ”