State stands by cease-and-desist order for organization serving up free meals

Malama Meals is still not cleared to start serving free food again

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Malama Meals is not cleared to start serving free food again.

The Department of Health says its cease and desist order last Friday is still in effect even though the group has fixed numerous violations.

Malama Meals says it’s served more than 360,000 meals during the pandemic. Health officials say Malama Meals was operating under a permit for Da Spot Health and Juice Bar run by Ahmad Ramadan.

Even though his restaurant has a green placard and was never shut down, health officials say the side of the operation that was serving thousands of free meals still cannot operate.

On Tuesday morning, the health department did a follow up inspection to confirm that Malama Meals was still shut down and mass meals were not being made inside a kitchen on the UH West Oahu campus.

After multiple violations for preparing mass meals with improper hand hygiene, lack of soap, a blocked hand washing sink and lack of food temperature controls, the Health Department says Da Spot restaurant fixed immediate violations and got a green placard Tuesday, but it still cannot distribute mass meals if they’re not served within four hours.

"We specifically told him no he is still not allowed to do so and he had misrepresented that to many other people," said Oshiro.

Thousands of meals had been delivered to sites on Oahu, Kauai and Molokai for kupuna, the homeless and others in need. Oshiro says the health department has not gotten push back for shutting down the mass feeding operation.

“When I tell them it’s for the safety of their clientele because literally this person can kill people by doing what he’s doing,” said Oshiro.

Malama Meals has its strong supporters, a long list of donors and volunteer coordinators who say Malama Meals did a great service.

"We are waiting on word for these corrections to be made and once that happens everyone is on board hopefully so that we can continue to serve the people here on Molokai," said Luana Alapa, Malama Meals volunteer coordinator for Molokai.

"When you hear from both sides, I hear that some of these infractions were easily corrected on the spot, but they were still flagged for it," said Alapa.

On its GoFundPage and website, the organization says it’s trying to raise $1 million for food safety and is coordinating with the City. While Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell stood with Malama Meals during its kick-off in March, the city says it was not involved with its operation.

"I believe it is a solid initiative getting food out to our seniors," said Caldwell.

“We think they need to do everything required to be a safe as possible,” he added.

Ramadan didn’t answer our questions today, but told Civil Beat it’s still waiting for designation as an official non-profit 501c3.

Health officials say Malama Meals needs approval from the state and a detailed plan if they want to start back up again.

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