With Hawai‘i children out of school and a larger burden placed on families due to the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, a variety of businesses and community organizations are stepping up to help ensure that Hawai‘i’s children are being fed during this time. The YMCA of Honolulu has been feeding thousands of children across Oahu and has now found a new partner in Mochi Foods founder Pei Wu and Soleil d’Hawaii Bakery.
The YMCA of Honolulu Kaimuki-Waialae Branch is providing hot lunches for children at eight sites across the island. So far the program has served 10,500 meals (and counting) to Oahu children. The Grab & Go meals are available Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. to children ages 18 and under (children must be present).
“We are grateful for the partnership and generosity of Soleil d’Hawaii Bakery and Mochi Foods for providing fresh bread and baked goods to families during this critical time,” said Ananda Ferreira, Executive Director of the Kaimuki-Waialae Branch of YMCA of Honolulu.
Mochi Foods and Soleil d’Hawaii Bakery are providing 200 loaves of bread every day, to accompany each meal distributed by the Kaimuki-Waialae Branch. These loaves are baked in the Soleil d’Hawaii Bakery, with some of the basic ingredients provided by the YMCA thanks to donors to their Annual Giving campaign. In addition to the daily bread collaboration, Mochi Foods is donating the ingredients and labor for occasional treats like Bubble Muffins. The bread adds a healthy carbohydrate to the USDA required meal pattern plates that include protein, whole grains, fruit, and milk.
“I’m very grateful that YMCA reached out to us, a small, local, woman-owned business, and gave us this opportunity to help, rather than a larger company. This has really given me and my staff something positive to focus on during this troubling time, and we appreciate the opportunity to give back to our community,” Wu said.
Mochi Foods is donating some of the flour for the baked goods, as well as Mochi Foods premixes that include Bubble Muffin, Mochi Donut, and Mochi Bread premixes, to add a healthy whole grain to the meals. In addition, Mochi Foods and Soleil d’Hawaii Bakery are providing the labor to prepare the baked goods.
“Unfortunately, we’ve had to furlough most of our employees at this time, but many of them still want to be doing something with their time. Everyone who is coming in to help create these baked goods are volunteering their time for this wonderful cause. We can’t wait to be able to get them all back to work as soon as we are able to resume normal operations,” Wu said.
To help the company pay for their food donations to the program, Mochi Foods is selling their mochi premixes online, where customers can choose from fun options like Mochi Waffles, Mochi Donuts, Mochi Pancakes, and Mochi Bread (with some gluten free options). Mochi Foods premixes are also available to chefs and bakers who are looking for a high-quality product that works well for take-out and delivery meals since they don’t dry out or lose their texture before they reach diners.
All of the YMCA hot lunch sites are open to the public, with the exception of the Palolo Homes site. Other partners who are supporting the hot meals program include the USDA, Hawai‘i Community Foundation’s Resiliency Fund, and Bank of Hawaii. Members of the public who would like to help support the hot meal program can donate funds at the YMCA website or drop off donations of PPE including masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer at the Kalihi branch, Monday through Friday from 9 to 11 a.m.