Culinary instructors use their cooking skills to help lava evacuees

Culinary instructors use their cooking skills to help lava evacuees

PUNA, BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) - Inside the warehouse at the Food Basket, Hawaii Island's Food Bank pallets are piled high with donations.

From canned good and fresh produce to tarps and toiletries — as quickly as it rolls in, it's packed up and shipped right back out.

"All this is getting ready to go to different sites. Salvation Army, Bodacious Ladies," said operations manager Joann Abiley.

On a recent weekday, distributors weren't the only ones picking up. Culinary instructors from Hawaii Community College in Hilo carted out 100 pounds of ground venison just flown in from Maui.

"Probably going to cook some curries. Meatloaves," said chef instructor Shawn Sumiki.

For the past four weeks, Sumiki along with another instructor have given up part of their summer break, donating time to prepare breakfast, lunch and dinner — three days a week — for evacuees displaced by the eruption in both the Pahoa and Keaau shelters. The duo prepares up to 1,000 meals in a single day.

"Usually Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday," said Sumiki.

"It's so beautiful that they're doing this on their summer vacation. They're putting in 16,17,18 hour days. I mean, it's incredible. And they're producing this incredible food for people," said executive director of the Food Basket, Kristin Frost Albrecht.

Sumiki says all the time spent in the kitchen has been well worth it knowing his meals can provide a bit of comfort to people who've lost everything.

"They're very humble about it, very appreciative," said Sumiki. "Long days are nothing as long as I can help. That's the main thing."

Every day the Food Basket distributes close to 1,000 pounds through its disaster relief effort. Water continues to be one of the biggest needs at the Food Basket.

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